Guide

Your guide to cycling after a hip replacement

The squeak of the brakes, the rubber on the road, the anticipation of the next coffee and cake stop. We know exactly about the thrills of getting out on two wheels and feeling the many benefits of pedal power. But what happens if hip injury stops you from getting out and about? How long will it be until you can get back on the bike? Join us as we explore cycling after a hip replacement.

cyclist on open road

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Cycling before a hip replacement – the benefits

Whether you need a hip replacement or not, cycling can have important health benefits for the majority of people. Not only is it great for weight loss and developing good cardio fitness, it can also be great for your mental well being.

If you need a hip replacement, the main benefit of cycling is strengthening the muscles around the affected hip joint. This can help raise the likelihood of the surgery being a success and even speed up your recovery.

Can you cycle after a hip replacement?

The simple answer to this is: yes. However, you should consult your doctor before recommencing any physical activities. Unlike running or other high-impact exercises, cycling is seen as a very good post-op activity. This is because it’s very low impact on your hips. In fact, your doctor may recommend cycling on a static bike following total hip replacement surgery as a way of building muscle strength around the affected hip.

Is cycling good exercise after a hip replacement?

Cycling is very good exercise after hip replacement surgery. This is because it’s low-impact on your affected hip while strengthening your muscles. If you’re cycling outdoors (i.e. not on a static bike), the only risk is falling off. This should be avoided as it can hamper your recovery and damage your new artificial hip joint.

Will cycling wear out my hip replacement?

Depending on how often you cycle, there shouldn’t be wear and tear to your hip. However, you should remember you aren’t in the Tour de France…yet! Excessive cycling (more than three or four times a week or cycling long distances) will likely cause damage to your hip joint replacement. Your doctor will be able to advise how often you should cycle and how far you can go each time.

Can I use an exercise bike after a hip replacement?

Using an exercise bike following a hip replacement can be extremely beneficial. Not only will it help to strengthen the muscles around your affected hip, as you’re not moving, there’s very little danger of falling off. It will also help to improve your physical and mental well being.

Competitive cycling after a hip replacement

Following hip replacement, you should only cycle competitively if your doctor has given you the green light to do so. Regardless of how good a cyclist you are, you’ll need to start slowly and build up your speed and distances during your recovery. Putting too much strain on the artificial hip too early may lead to damage and even the need for further surgery.

Mountain biking after hip replacement

One of the main risks of mountain biking is falling off. Hitting a loose stone or riding over uneven ground can easily cause you to come off your bike. Besides having the potential to be rather painful, it also puts you at risk of damaging your new artificial hip. Dislocating or jarring a new hip joint could mean further surgery.

Cycling hills after hip replacement

In the first few weeks following hip replacement, you should avoid cycling up hills. Hill cycling can put a lot of strain on your new hip as you press the pedals down which can lead to joint damage. Initially, your cycling should be restricted to a static bike, meaning you’ll have control over the inclines.

When can I cycle after hip replacement?

You should consult your doctor before cycling post surgery. This is to avoid putting too much strain on your new joint. It is likely that your consultant will recommend cycling to you as a form of exercise due to its effectiveness in making a full recovery. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to cycle outdoors for the first few months. However, the use of a stationary bike in the early post op will help to restore the range of motion in your affected hip.

Your training timeline

As everyone heals at different rates, training timelines during recovery will vary from person-to-person. With that said, here’s a rough outline of what you can expect to do following your hip surgery:

0-2 weeks2-6 weeks6-12 weeks11-20 weeks
Light use of an upright stationary bike. This is to work on hip range of motion. Sessions should be no longer than 20 mins at a time.Increase stationary bike resistance and session time to 40 minutes twice a week.Outdoor cycling can recommence. Make sure you cycle short distances on level surfaces.Outdoor cycling distances can be increased in line with how comfortable you feel.

Choosing the best bike after a hip replacement

If your doctor has recommended cycling as an effective post-op exercise, there are three types of bike you need to be aware of:

  • recumbent bike
  • stationary bike
  • outdoor push bike.

Each one has its own benefits and risks to consider before investing.

Recumbent bike

The advantages of using a recumbent bike are numerous. First off, the saddle is much wider than a regular stationary or outdoor bike meaning you get a more stable ride without having to worry about keeping your balance. While a recumbent bike is great for the earlier days of recovery, as you progress, it’s likely your doctor will recommend graduating to a stationary or outdoor bike for a more comprehensive workout.

Upright stationary bike

If you don’t have access to a recumbent bike during your early recovery, a stationary bike is just as good. However, you will need to make sure your seat is well-positioned. Make sure your seat is high enough so that your leg is almost fully straightened when the pedal is pushed down.

One tip is to pedal backwards initially. This reduces the amount of strain on your new hip. Only pedal forwards when your doctor advises it is safe to do so.

Road bike

You should be able to resume cycling outdoors from around six weeks after your total hip replacement surgery. For some patients this may take longer; you will need to seek the advice of your doctor. As with a stationary bike, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the bike set-up. Your saddle should be high enough so as not to put pressure on your new hip.

Electric bike

One of the main advantages of an electric bike is that you can choose when you want to pedal. This can be a great option for patients recovering from hip surgery who still want to get out on the road but can’t put too much strain on their new hip joint. However, one disadvantage of electric bikes is their cost. They are typically more expensive than regular push bikes meaning that, for a lot of people, they aren’t a feasible option.

How to get on a bike after hip replacement

We’ve talked about returning to cycling following hip replacement surgery, but we haven’t tackled how to physically get back on your bike. There are two recommended ways to do this:

  • Option 1: Making sure to keep both sets of brakes engaged, tip the handlebars back so the front wheel is facing upwards towards the sky. The saddle should now be much lower and therefore easier to mount. Step either side of the saddle and tip the bike forward again so the front wheel is back on the floor
  • Option 2: With both brakes engaged, tip the bike to one side so it’s at around a 45 degree angle. Swing your leg around the back wheel until it’s in line with the pedal.

Cycling for hip rehab and recovery

The main benefits of cycling for hip replacement recovery are:

  • increased range of hip motion
  • low-impact exercise
  • strengthening the muscles around the affect joint
  • improved cardio fitness
  • better mental and physical well being.

Is a stationary bike good for hip replacement recovery?

Yes, a stationary bike is just as good as a recumbent bike. There is little risk of falling off and you’ll strengthen your core by needing to balance your weight.

You will need to make sure your seat is high enough so that your leg is almost fully straightened when the pedal is pushed down.

Tips for cycling with a hip replacement

And there you have it! A comprehensive guide to cycling after a hip replacement. We have more information about sport and exercise after a hip replacement, but if you didn’t read the full article, here are the top five tips for cycling with a hip replacement:

  • follow the advice of your doctor
  • take it slow and steady initially
  • invest in a recumbent or stationary bike
  • pedal backwards unless otherwise advised by your doctor
  • increase distances and resistance slowly.
Gyorgy Lovasz consultant

Acknowledgements

This article was completed with the help of Gyorgy Lovasz, Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon at Practice Plus Group. Among his qualifications are Specialist of Trauma & Orthopaedics, Budapest, and he spent three years in the UAE as a consultant orthopaedic-trauma surgeon. Mr Lovasz has performed more than 4000 orthopaedic procedures in the UK. His main field of interest is lower limb arthroplasty. Over the last few years Practice Plus Group has grown its Marketing Team to include art workers, campaign and social media managers, content editors, and digital analysts. Together, they provide a responsive and comprehensive service, ensuring all content is on-brand and in-line with relevant medical guidelines.
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