Do Stationary Bikes Work?

Pedal your way to a healthier heart.

Pedal your way to a healthier heart.

As long as your stationary bike actually "works" in the fundamental sense -- you can pedal the thing, you're able to adjust the seat to the proper level and the resistance controls operate correctly -- you can use it to meet your cardio and exercise needs. Not only does it give your heart a workout, but it's very adaptable and useful if you have special health conditions ranging from back pain to Parkinson's disease. So even if you feel like you're riding a bike to nowhere, you're actually pedaling toward a city called Better Health.

Types of Bikes

Unlike shoes or sunglasses, you won't find a huge variety of stationary bikes. The two basic types are recumbent and upright. An upright stationary bike has a traditional saddle seat. You might use one in a spin class or if you're in training for a cycling event, since an upright bike gives you the ability to rise off the seat to pedal like a madwoman. Recumbent bikes give you the opportunity to sit in a chairlike seat and pedal. If you have back problems, a recumbent bikes cradles your lower spine and offers protection. People who have balance problems are also likely to be more comfortable on a recumbent bike than on a stationary one.

Low-Impact Cardio Workout

Cycling offers a low-impact form of aerobic exercise, saving your joints and bones from the pounding you endure if you jog or play basketball. A stationary bike is an especially effective way to perform interval workouts, which alternate brief bursts of all-out pedaling and easy recovery periods. Interval workouts can be as effective for fitness purposes as long, slow and steady exercise. Adding intervals to your pedaling procedure is a good way to literally speed up the cardio benefits you're seeking.

Weight Loss and Toning

An exercise bike is a good way to maintain or lose weight. You'll burn calories and sweat off pounds with a moderate to vigorous cycling workout. For example, if you weigh 125 pounds and ride moderately for 30 minutes, you'll burn about 210 calories. Pedal vigorously and you'll burn about 125 calories more in the same time. And, of course, you'll tone and shape your legs and lower body as well. A stationary bike is a great way to build up your calf and thigh muscles, although you'll want to balance out the quad strengthening with exercises for your hamstrings.

Considerations

Stationary bikes are a favored tool among researchers testing the effects of exercise on people with certain physical conditions and limitations. And a regular cycling program helps some special populations improve their cognitive abilities. Research by the Cleveland Clinic, presented at the 2012 Radiology Society of North America and reported in the "Daily Mail," found that people with Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder, improved brain functioning and movement ability by riding a bike, especially at a relatively fast pace. A 2012 study of people with diabetes who exercised five times per week over a three-month period found significant improvements in cognitive ability among the research subjects, according to the "Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology."

 

About the Author

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

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