Spinal loads during cycling on an ergometer

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 17;9(4):e95497. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095497. eCollection 2014.


Cycling on an ergometer is an effective exercise for improving fitness. However, people with back problems or previous spinal surgery are often not aware of whether cycling could be harmful for them. To date, little information exists about spinal loads during cycling. A telemeterized vertebral body replacement allows in vivo measurement of implant loads during the activities of daily living. Five patients with a severe compression fracture of a lumbar vertebral body received these implants. During one measurement session, four of the participants exercised on a bicycle ergometer at various power levels. As the power level increased, the maximum resultant force and the difference between the maximum and minimum force (force range) during each pedal revolution increased. The average maximum-force increases between the two power levels 25 and 85 W were 73, 84, 225 and 75 N for the four patients. The corresponding increases in the force range during a pedal revolution were 84, 98, 166 and 101 N. There were large variations in the measured forces between the patients and also within the same patient, especially for high power levels. In two patients, the maximum forces during high-power cycling were higher than the forces during walking measured on the same day. Therefore, the authors conclude that patients with back problems should not cycle at high power levels shortly after surgery as a precaution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ergometry
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Fractures, Compression / surgery
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged

Grants and funding

Funding for this study was obtained from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn, Germany (Ro 581/18-1) and the Deutsche Arthrose-Hilfe, Frankfurt, Germany. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.