Postural stability in cyclists

Preece, Mia, Grainger, Karl and Starrs, Paul (2023) Postural stability in cyclists. Journal of Public Health. ISSN 0943-1853


Age-related loss of postural stability (or balance) is a main contributing factor to hospital admissions for falls in the elderly, with a sharp decline in balance starting in the fifth decade of life. Core stability exercises have been well documented as having a positive effect on balance, but the effect of cycling on balance has not been widely considered. With the continued increase in uptake of recreational cycling this investigation could offer valuable insight, with implications for fall risk reduction in later life. The progression of portable technology offers opportunity to transfer clinical balance testing to the field. The study used the SWAY™ app on a mobile phone to investigate balance in two different disciplines of recreational cycling - road cycling (RC) and mountain biking (MTB). It aimed to ascertain whether cycling promotes better balance as compared with an age-matched sedentary control (CN), and which cycling discipline promotes the better balance.

42 adults (53 ± 7 y), RC N = 14, MTB N = 14, and CN N = 14, balanced with eyes closed in five stances as instructed by the SWAY app on a mobile phone held to the chest, which gave the mean of five stances as a total balance score.

RC had significantly better balance than CN (p <0.001); MTB had significantly better balance than CN (p = 0.004); RC had significantly better balance than MTB (p = 0.046).

MTB balance was worse than RC balance, but both cycling groups were found to have better balance scores than the control. These findings have implications for public health, as cycling, an inexpensive and accessible activity already known to offer substantial health benefits, could additionally help maintain postural stability and potentially reduce risk of falls in later life.

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