No matter what form of exercise you do at the gym, you are burning calories and strengthening your heart and lungs. But riding the stationary bike does a little more than simple cardio; this low-impact sport provides a range of benefits from helping you get a killer pair of legs to shedding a few unwanted pounds.
A bike is a solid fitness option if you have experienced a lower body injury, are a fitness newbie, have taken an extended hiatus from exercise or have a few extra pounds to lose. This low-impact exercise is gentler on your body than high-impact exercises, such as running. When you work out on the bike, the bike supports the majority of your weight so you can get a killer workout without putting your muscles and joints under any unnecessary stress or strain.
While you may have heard that the treadmill or elliptical are the best ways to burn calories at the gym, this doesn’t mean that the stationary bike can’t help you cut the number on the scale. A study published in the “American Journal of Sports Medicine” had minimally to moderately obese, yet otherwise healthy young women do three different types of exercise: brisk walking, riding a stationary bike and swimming laps. The women didn’t have to change their diet but did have to exercise every day for 60 minutes. After six months, the women on the bike had lost 12 percent of their body weight, 2 percent more than the walkers and 12 percent more than the swimmers.
As you work out on the bike, thousands of little muscle fibers engage to turn the pedals. The main muscles at work are your quadriceps and hamstrings in your upper legs and your gastrocnemius and soleus in your calves. Your upper leg muscles do the majority of the work as you pedal, so you'll be sliding into a smaller pair of jeans in no time.
Range of Motion
After sitting at a desk all day, staring at the monitor, it’s no wonder your hips feel stiff. If you have tight hips, riding a stationary bike can help you increase your range of motion. A study published in the “Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy” showed that cycling for at least 15 minutes increased the range of motion in the hip as much regular stretching.
- Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: The Effects of Static Stretching Exercises and Stationary Cycling on Range of Motion at the Hip Joint
- American Journal of Sports Medicine: Weight Loss Without Dietary Restriction: Efficacy of Different Forms of Aerobic Exercise
- The Exploratorium’s Science of Cycling: Muscles Used for Bicycling
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.