Going nowhere on an indoor bike is the focus of a group cycle class offered in hundreds of health clubs and rec centers across the country. This high-intensity workout is led by an instructor who helps you, via guided imagery and rockin' tunes, mimic hills, windy flats and breakaway sprints. It can burn an astounding 400 to 600 calories in 45 minutes. With all the leg churning in class, you'd think your thighs would get some of the calorie-burning love and slim down. Alas, spot training is not possible and, in some cases, you might experience an increase in thigh muscle mass with regular spinning. Don't ditch the bike, though; indoor cycling offers numerous benefits to your fitness level and health.
Although an indoor cycling class is primarily a leg workout, you aren't guaranteed a reduction in inches in the thigh region. Spot reducing is simply not possible, notes the American Council on Exercise. The only way to lose weight in your thighs is to lose weight all over. Indoor cycling can help you reduce pounds by burning a significant number of calories in a relatively short period of time -- but you'll have to couple it with a portion-controlled, healthy diet. Women, in particular, find the thigh region to be stubborn and resistant to fat loss even when they do lose weight. Genetically, some women are predisposed to thicker legs.
Bulking or Slimming
For some women, indoor cycling may lead to an increase in muscle mass in the legs. A wispy-thin waif who has never exercised before will notice a bit more definition and possibly bulk in the thighs. A bodybuilder or athlete with large thighs may actually find her thighs slim with indoor cycling, if the class is used in lieu of max-rep squats. Hill simulation, in which you crank the resistance to a high level, can build your thigh muscles -- but most classes do not incorporate long, sustained climbs to create such bulk.
Creating more lean muscle mass in your thighs, particularly the large front muscles of the quadriceps, may help you lose more fat overall. When you have more muscle, your body's metabolism experiences a slight boost, which can make you more efficient at burning calories all day long. As you lose weight, you'll reveal shapelier, muscular legs to show off in a mini.
Without dietary changes, all the indoor cycling in the world will not help you slim down. Just because it feels like you earned the right to gobble down a post-workout feast doesn't mean you should. Keep your calorie intake in check and satisfy the increase in appetite that can sometimes occur with extra exercise with healthy, low-calorie options such as fruit. When it comes to your health, indoor cycling is a superb option because it helps you fulfill the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Sweating it out on the stationary bike builds heart strength, may ward off chronic disease and can help you feel more energized all day long.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.