During the COVID-19 pandemic, home exercise classes have skyrocketed in popularity. In particular, indoor home cycling sales purchases are at an all-time high. I myself bought a Peloton to help me stay active and get through the long Chicago winter and I love it. However, just doing Spin classes as your only form of exercise may not be the best idea for the long-term health of your lower back.
The global pandemic has resulted in more individuals sitting for longer periods of time throughout the day.
As result, this is causing musculoskeletal changes and increased stress on our spine. When we sit, our anterior chain or the muscles in the front of our body are placed in a shortened position. Our hip flexors, in particular, tend to become very tight from being in this flexed and shortened position.
When our hip flexors are very tight, they may hinder the ability of our gluteal muscles on the opposite side to activate correctly. The hip flexors also begin to act as a major spinal stabilizing muscle instead of other deep core muscles and multifidi muscle. Our back extensor muscles such as our multifidi help maintain correct posture but are put on stretch in sitting and begin to weaken due to lack of use.
Sitting also places increased stress on the discs in our lumbar spine. This combined with a muscle imbalance can lead to an increased risk of a low back injury such as a disk herniation. Therefore, holding a static bent-forward (flexion) position when cycling can further perpetuate this problem.
I am by no means recommending that you stop cycling.
I love to cycle and feel this is a great form of cardiovascular exercise for many individuals. My suggestion is to make sure you cross-train! Meaning that you need to start incorporating resistance training and stretching into your weekly workouts. We need to move and strengthen in different directions or planes of movement. Stretching our lower back into extension and stretching our hip flexors before cycling is a great place to start.