PEOPLE with joint pain are being prescribed cycling in a “groundbreaking” study to cut arthritis and hip operations.

Royal Bournemouth Hospital is running a trial where patients are given 30 minutes a day on a static or moving bicycle.

The doctors believe regular exercise could stop muscle wastage and delay or prevent the onset of arthritis.

Consultant and Orthopaedic surgeon Rob Middleton revealed details to a packed lecture theatre at the hospital.

“It was a groundbreaking lecture, the most interesting I have heard for 20 years,” said Lindley Owen, a consultant in public health for Bournemouth and Poole Primary Care Trust.

Osteo-arthritis is considered a problem with cartilage and bones.

However, Mr Middleton suggested we could think of it as a muscle problem.

He noted a study where rabbits which could not freely exercise developed arthritis, while rabbits which could exercise did not.

He said professional cyclists often have signs of arthritis but do not suffer pain until they retire and become less active.

Dr Middleton suggested regular, non-load bearing exercise will be a better form of future prevention than stem-cell technology or the use of tiny robots to repair the joint.

Mr Owen, a keen cyclist, told the Echo: “The implications of what Rob Middleton is saying have enormous impact, not just for people, but organisations that deal with health care.

“Hip replacements are now the most common operation in the developed world and this could save thousands.

“You won’t see a major change in the NHS on the back of one trial but you will have evidence backing up the idea.

“I have heard a lot of lectures in my time and it’s not often I get excited any more, but the lecture was ground breaking.”