Sometimes the hardest thing to overcome when starting to exercise, is the worry that you'll discover old aches and pains, or create new ones. Commonly, knee, foot and ankle pain.
But fear not. You don't have to skip exercise all together. You have options.
"For many people who may have a little arthritis, biking is one of those sports where you can benefit from the cardio and minimize impact on your joints," recommends James Bicos, M.D., Beaumont orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. "With biking, there's less impact to the knee."
When you experience knee pain, it could be because the thin layer of cartilage between your knee joints, called the meniscus, as well as other cartilage in your joints, is worn down like the tread on a tire.
When it gets worn down, there is less padding there, so when you walk or run, more force goes to the bone and the nerve endings within the bone causing pain. You could also experience knee pain if you have arthritis under your knee cap.
While there are many studies that show running specifically does not cause arthritis, if you do have arthritis, it's important to modify how you exercise, so you don't cause further pain or damage to your joints.
How do you know when it's time to look into low-impact exercise?
"When there's pain or swelling that doesn't go away with rest, it's time to look at low impact options," said Dr. Bicos.
Luckily, biking comes in many forms, so if the idea of strapping on a helmet and jamming down a muddy mountain path doesn't appeal to you, you can always try something else. Some popular forms of biking include spinning, using a stationary bike and going for a bike ride outside.
"Biking is a great cardio workout," explains Dr. Bicos. "It keeps you outdoors, bumps up your heart rate, especially if you're spinning, and for people who might need to cross train, you still gain the benefits of exercise. As an added bonus, you can start using your bike as transportation, that way you're getting your exercise and getting to work. It kills two birds with one stone."
As with starting any new form of exercise, have proper expectations. "If there's any question about the status of your health or joints, talk to your doctor. Then set realistic goals so you don't get frustrated," recommends Dr. Bicos.
"A lot of people worry about overloading their joints and risking or aggravating an injury. From studies, we know that long-term impact sports can cause issues down the road."