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Indoor Cycling: A Spine Surgeon’s Perspective

Exercise and staying fit is a big part of my life. As a spine surgeon, I know that keeping the core muscles strong and supporting the spinal column is paramount to leading a healthy lifestyle.   That’s one of the reasons I go to Flywheel; it reinforces core musculature and benefits overall spine health. Your core muscles are the base for everything you do – they’re working full-time to keep you in motion throughout the day. 

There are a million workout trends out there.  Flywheel, a national chain of indoor cycling studios with a location in Charlotte, allows me to get a quick, efficient workout that focuses on high-intensity cardio and keeps my heart rate up for 45 minutes.  This type of exercise burns fat, builds endurance and stamina, and works the whole body as a unit.  The instructors have the uncanny ability to take you out of your comfort zone time and time again, resulting in higher levels of fitness.  I never thought I could burn upwards of 1000 calories in 45 minutes.    

Flywheel workouts address overall spine health in ways that may surprise you. During a cycle class, you rely heavily on the obliques, the muscle group that wraps all the way around from the back flank. Obliques are important in daily life for tortional control. On your next ride, when you’re out of the saddle, focus on fully engaging your core muscles to stabilize your motion.  Don’t bounce all over the place – keep it tight. 

Obviously, Flywheel works your glutes, quads, gastrocs, and arms, but behind the action, your core muscles are working in tandem to keep it all together. Here’s an overview of all of those core muscles at work during a class, building a more stable spine:

  • Rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis (Abs) – These muscles flex the trunk and help control the curvature of the lower spine and tilt of the pelvis.
  • Internal and External Obliques – These core muscles are important for trunk rotation, lateral bending and twisting.
  • Erector Spinae – These back muscles extend to the vertebral column and trunk.  They help the body stand straight and provide proper posture.  Unfortunately, these muscles are the most often strained due to deconditioning and lack of mobility.
  • Multifidi – These deep muscles along the spinal column aid in spinal stability during movement.
  • Pelvic muscles including the Iliopsoas (Hip flexor) – Muscles that are located deep in the abdomen, these help you bend at the waist and flex the hip.

Back pain and injuries are a national problem with far-reaching societal effects.  Keeping a healthy core provides a solid foundation, spinal stability and support, and helps you avoid injury. For me, Flywheel and indoor cycling in general is an ideal way to get cardiac exercise, work the entire body, and maintain overall proper spine health – which is so important to everything we do every day. 

David T. Anderson, MD is a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon with OrthoCarolina in Charlotte and Monroe, NC. He received his Doctor of Medicine from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia,PA.  He completed an orthopedic surgery residency at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia,PA.   Dr. Anderson then completed his fellowship training in spine surgery at the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.  He specializes in treating cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine conditions and performs complex spinal procedures.  He has published several scientific articles and book chapters and has presented his research nationally.

May is Bike Month

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