Riding an exercise bike on a regular basis helps tone several major muscles and plays an important role in any fitness regimen. While riding a stationary bike is a low-impact form of exercise, you can still burn substantial calories and fat while building muscle. By increasing your intensity level and engaging your arms while riding a stationary bike, you'll boost your ability to tone muscles all over your body.
Exercise bikes primarily engage major leg muscles, especially your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Pedaling requires you to use your quadriceps when you push down and your hamstrings when pulling up to complete the pedal rotation. To build leg muscles, push yourself with short intervals of intense speed or resistance followed by recovery periods. For more gentle leg toning, cycling at moderate speeds for longer periods is recommended.
Cycling requires a strong core to improve your pedal stroke and reduce risk of back strain. You can work key abdominal muscles like the transverse abdominus by retracting your belly button towards your spine while pedaling. Engaging in high-intensity interval training also is effective at reducing abdominal fat. On a recumbent bike, use the handlebars at the sides or front of the bike to flex the spine and activate your abdominal muscles while riding.
Give your upper arms an effective toning workout by using the handlebars while pedaling. On an upright bike you can stand or sit, which allows you to flex your arms in different positions and engage the shoulder muscles, biceps and triceps. With a recumbent bike, arm handles may be located at the side or at the front of the machine. The recumbent's supported seat position also allows you to use hand weights or resistance bands to work your arms while you pedal.
Riding an exercise bike helps tone lower body muscles, but to burn fat you need to engage in a combination of strength training and cardio exercise that elevates your heart rate, along with following a low-fat diet. Alternate your bike riding days to prevent muscle fatigue and reduce injury risk. Any pain or discomfort you experience while riding an exercise bike needs to be promptly discussed with your doctor. Do not attempt arm exercises on an upright stationary bike until you have a solid fitness base and feel comfortable and secure on the bike.
Joy Johnston has been an online journalist since 2005. She has served as senior producer for the health news website Sharecare and as a digital producer for the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," where she helped develop the health channel. Johnston has also covered ways to stay fit in Atlanta.