When it comes to heart health, cardiovascular exercises maximize health benefits and minimize risks. Treadmills and stationary recumbent bikes are two common pieces of exercise equipment used for aerobic exercise, and both are effective for strengthening the heart and cardiovascular system. Although there is no clear advantage to either exercise in terms of heart health, both machines have different effects on your body.
Heart Rate Zones
How fast your heart beats during exercise gives you a strong indication of how much you're exerting yourself. Generally, the American Heart Association recommends that people stay within their target heart zone during aerobic exercise to minimize risks. This zone lies between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Men can find their maximum heart rate by subtracting their age from 220, while women need to subtract 88 percent of their age from 206.
Most recumbent bikes come with adjustable resistance levels so you can change the difficulty of your workout. How fast your heart beats will depend on how fast you pedal and how high you set the resistance. To work on endurance, set the bike to a low resistance level and exercise at 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. To feel the burn in your muscles, increase the resistance and pedal faster to push yourself into a higher heart zone. The lower seat and horizontal leg position offered by recumbent bikes take some stress off of the heart by allowing blood to return to the heart faster from the lower body. Because of this, heart rate and the amount of oxygen consumed, particularly in those with mild hypertension, tend to be lower on recumbent bikes than other types of stationary exercise equipment.
Although you can't change the resistance level of a treadmill, you can change the incline, which serves the purpose of increasing the load on your muscles during exercise. Treadmills can give you the same heart health benefits as cycling routines, but they place considerably more stress on your ankles, knees and hips because of the repeated impacts you experience.
With frequent cardio exercise on recumbent bikes or treadmills, your cardiovascular system will respond with physical adaptations. Your heart will get much stronger as a result of an increased workload, thereby increasing stroke volume and the oxygen content of your blood. Additionally, your resting heart rate will decrease along with stress levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
- American Heart Association: Target Heart Rate
- New York Times: Recalibrated Formula Eases Women’s Workouts
- Spinning.com: Spinning Energy Zones
- Cleveland Clinic: What is the Best Type of Aerobic Exercise?
- Sports Fitness Advisor: The Cardiovascular System and Exercise
- MSN Healthy Licing: Bike Dilemma -- Regular or Recumbent?
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.