If you love the armchair-exercise feeling of riding a recumbent bike, take heart. This aerobic activity boosts cardiovascular function, increases endurance and blasts calories fast for easier weight maintenance -- which may translate to a flatter tummy. What cycling won't do, however, is build six-pack stomach muscles. That requires strength-training moves that target your abs.
Recumbent Bikes and Muscle
The recumbent bike involves your thigh, hip and calf muscles, and tones them to some degree when you use a high-resistance setting. But it doesn't engage your stomach muscles. Plus, aerobic exercises don't have the same sculpting power as strength training, which includes using weights or performing body-weight exercises such as situps and crunches. In fact, performing gentle cardio for long stretches can actually cause you to lose muscle mass -- which is why Shapefit.com recommends mixing things up with high-intensity intervals.
Recumbent Bikes and Weight
They may not give you hard abs, but regular sessions on the recumbent bike can seriously up your calorie burn, helping you melt fat all over your body. At a moderate speed and resistance level, a 155-pound person burns an impressive 520 calories per hour; at a vigorous pace and resistance, she burns a mighty 782 calories per hour. One pound of body fat is about 3,500 calories, so all other things equal, you could lose 1 pound in fewer than five heavy cycling sessions.
Not only is the recumbent bike a smart choice for allover fat loss, but cycling could also help target the visceral fat that pads your abdominal organs and widens your waistline. In an interview with "U.S. News and World Report," professor Kerry Stewart of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said that biking and other cardio activities will remove visceral fat even faster than the subcutaneous fat you can pinch. Along with cycling, try running, rowing, swimming and other cardio moves to melt belly fat.
The more time you spend on the bike, the better the results. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate cycling, or 15 to 30 minutes of vigorous cycling, five days per week. During moderate sessions you can speak easily but can't sing; during vigorous activity you're working too hard to complete a sentence without taking a breath. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two weekly strength-training sessions for all major muscle groups. If exercise hasn't been on the schedule for a few years, see your doctor before starting a routine.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.