Cycling is a great way to get a low-impact cardio workout so you can improve your aerobic fitness and heart health, strengthen your legs, burn calories, and improve your mood, all while reducing the stress on your joints.
While cycling outdoors is fun and allows you to reap the benefits of fresh air, it’s not always possible, be it due to bad weather, for people who have balance and stability issues, or who live in densely-populated areas without safe cycling lanes.
The good news is that you can get just as good a workout – if not better – by riding a stationary exercise bike indoors!
We’ll be covering:
- What Actually Is An Exercise Bike?
- 10 Key Stationary Bike Benefits
- How To Maximize Your Stationary Bike Workout
Ready for the lowdown on exercise bike benefits?
Let’s jump in!
What Actually Is An Exercise Bike?
Although we’ve all come across the term “exercise bike” before, there are several different specific pieces of gym equipment that people might understand by it. Any type of exercise bike will share bike characteristics, but the different types have their own nuances.
In general, an exercise bike is any stationary bike used for cycling indoors.
Like traditional outdoor bikes, exercise bikes have some form of pedals and a seat. However, exercise bikes usually only have one wheel (called a flywheel), which is often not even visible, depending on the type of exercise bike you’re using.
The primary types of exercise bikes include upright stationary bikes, recumbent bikes, and indoor cycles (frequently called spin bikes, though this isn’t the technical term). Some people also consider that a regular bike attached to an indoor trainer is a form of exercise bike.
10 Key Stationary Bike Benefits
Even though there are prominent visual and operational differences between the different categories of exercise bikes, the benefits of riding an exercise bike are generally universal across the board.
However, there are certain benefits of exercise bikes that are particularly pronounced with one type of exercise bike over the others, so some exercise bikes are better for achieving certain goals and needs than others.
#1: Stationary Bike Workouts Improve Your Cardiovascular Health and Fitness
As a form of cardio exercise, stationary bike workouts increase your aerobic fitness and improve the health of your heart and lungs.
Riding a stationary bike can help you increase your cardiovascular endurance. To do so, gradually increase the duration of your rides, or have one long cycling workout per week in addition to your shorter, more intense workouts.
#2: Stationary Bike Workouts Burn Calories and Can Promote Weight Loss
Although the benefits of stationary bike workouts go way beyond weight loss, you can’t argue with the metabolic perks of a vigorous or long workout.
Studies have found that stationary bikes are an effective way to burn fat and lose weight, as well as reduce waist circumference, a measure of abdominal fat or “belly fat.”
Exercise bike workouts can burn upwards of 400-600 calories per hour, depending on your body weight and the intensity of your effort.
Furthermore, doing a high-intensity interval training (HITT) workout in which you cycle at a vigorous effort with short rest intervals will elevate your metabolic rate for several hours even after your workout is over.
#3: Stationary Bike Workouts Increase Leg Strength
Stationary bike workouts build strength in your leg muscles, primarily the quads and hamstrings, as well as the glutes, calves, and core muscles to a lesser degree.
If you want to maximize gains in muscle mass and strength from exercise bike workouts, be sure to crank up the resistance to increase the workload on your legs.
#4: Stationary Bike Workouts Are Joint Friendly
Compared to working out on a treadmill or running outdoors, one of the primary benefits of stationary bikes is that cycling is a low-impact activity, so it is much easier on the joints.
Because your foot is always in contact with the pedal, you are not landing on your feet from an airborne position, so there is no significant impact stress on your bones and joints, as there is when you run or jump.
There is even less joint stress on an exercise bike than when walking because your weight is supported by the bike seat.
Thus, riding an exercise bike is a non-weight-bearing, low-impact activity.
Therefore, it’s great for people with joint pain, osteoporosis, or musculoskeletal injuries, as the minimal impact makes stationary biking a pain-free workout option for those with acute and chronic joint pain.
Additionally, if you are a runner or play high-impact sports, stationary bikes can serve as a perfect supplement to your training by reducing the stress on your joints yet still providing a viable means of increasing your fitness.
#5: Stationary Bike Workouts Can Improve Markers of Health
Studies have found that like other forms of aerobic exercise, regularly engaging in stationary bike workouts can improve various markers of health.
For example, stationary bike workouts can reduce blood pressure, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and blood lipids, and can increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and improve blood sugar regulation.
As a result, riding an exercise bike can reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis.
#6: Stationary Bikes Are Great for HIIT Training
Another of the stationary bike benefits is that they are perfect for HIIT training.
You can easily dial up and down the intensity of your effort by changing the resistance and cadence (pedal speed in rotations per minute).
You can also do easy pedaling with light resistance for recovery rides, making it a versatile piece of exercise equipment.
#7: Stationary Bike Workouts Are More Efficient Than Biking Outdoors
Because there’s no need to stop at stop lights and you don’t get coasting breaks on a downhill, indoor cycling workouts can provide a more consistent, reliable hard effort.
#8: Stationary Bike Workouts Improve Your Mood
Anyone who has had the pleasant experience of hopping off the stationary bike after a tough workout feeling blissfully happy and calm all at the same time is familiar with the powerful effect of endorphins.
This mood-boosting effect of doing a vigorous exercise bike workout is technically due to the production of endocannabinoids, the feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body in response to exercise.
Therefore, one of the benefits of a stationary bicycle is that you can ride your way to a better mood, reduce the risk of depression, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve feelings of overall well-being.
#9: Stationary Bikes Are Appropriate for All Fitness Levels
One of the best benefits of a stationary bicycle is that they can be used by almost anyone, no matter what your body shape, size, fitness level, and age may be.
Because exercise bikes are non-weight bearing, stable, and highly adjustable, old, young, fit, novice, and overweight people alike can typically adjust the intensity and settings on a stationary bike to get an appropriate workout.
For example, a beginner contending with knee pain who is looking to lose a lot of weight over time may start by building up endurance on a recumbent bike.
A fit road cyclist or triathlete might use a spin bike for high-intensity interval training during the off-season to improve overall fitness.
#10: Stationary Bike Workouts Are Safe
One of the primary benefits of exercise bikes over regular outdoor bikes is that riding an exercise bike is much safer. There is no traffic to contend with, and it’s near impossible to fall off. You don’t have to worry about balance, being seen in the dark, or fighting your way to have a safe space on the road.
For these reasons, riding a stationary bike can be a smarter alternative than risking an outdoor bike ride, especially for seniors, people with poor balance, or those that live in cities or high-traffic areas.
How to Maximize Your Stationary Bike Workout
To maximize these stationary bike benefits, use a heart rate monitor to gauge the intensity of your effort.
Increase the resistance and cadence (how fast you are pedaling), until you elevate your heart rate into the aerobic zone.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, moderate-intensity cardio corresponds to a heart rate range of 64-76% of your maximum heart rate, and vigorous-intensity cardio is anywhere above that.
Consider doing hard intervals to vary your routine and boost your fitness.
Overall, riding a stationary bike or indoor cycle can be a great workout with numerous physical and mental health benefits. Whether you choose to use an upright stationary bike, a recumbent bike, or an indoor cycle (spin bike), exercise bikes are safe, low impact, and easy to use.
Additionally, exercise bikes can be used by people of nearly any fitness level because the resistance and intensity can be modulated.