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Is Riding a Stationary Bike Good Exercise?

by
author image Lisa Sefcik
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.
Is Riding a Stationary Bike Good Exercise?
Stationary bikes do provide good exercise. Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Indoor cycling is arduous, exhilarating, challenging and ultimately very effective. A leisurely hour-long bike ride burns around 298 for a person who weighs 155 pounds. But, according to the American Council on Exercise, the average indoor cyclist can burn up to 19 calories per minute, for a total of 1,140 calories an hour. Riding a stationary bike indoors isn't just good exercise -- it's an effective way to burn off fat.

Aerobic Activity

Riding a stationary bike is a type of aerobic exercise -- a physical activity that uses your large muscle groups continuously and repetitively for prolonged periods of time. Indoor cycling is only one type of aerobic exercise. According to ACE, you can choose from weight-bearing aerobic activities, such as running, dancing, walking and jumping rope. Examples of non-weight-bearing exercise include riding a regular or stationary bicycle, rowing and swimming. According to the Centers for Disease Control, healthy adults should get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity each week or one and a quarter hour of intense aerobic activity a week. If you're exercising to maintain your health, 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day is sufficient -- however, if you want to lose weight, you may want to put in 45-minute sessions, notes ACE.

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Indoor Cycling

Riding a stationary bike solo gets boring, hence the popularity of group cycling, many of which are run by indoor cycling instructors. According to ACE, these classes are far more intriguing than plugging away on your own due to the verve of class instructors, who lead you through a tour of virtual inclines, declines and straight roads to get to the finish line. Most intermediate and advanced classes aren't for the faint of heart -- or those out of shape -- as they require you to pedal vigorously for 40 to 45 minutes at a stretch, excluding warm-up and cool-down times.

Preparations

Comfortable clothing is necessary for a good workout on a stationary bike. ACE recommends putting on padded cycling shorts like outdoor cyclists wear to make your ride more comfortable. The seat must be set to the correct height. When pedaling up, your knee should never go above hip level, nor should your leg be rigidly straight when the pedal is closest to the floor; according to ACE, your leg should be 85 percent straight on your downstroke. Have a water bottle on hand so you can hydrate frequently as you exercise. A small towel is also helpful to wipe off excess perspiration.

During Your Workout

If you sign up for an indoor group cycling session, don't feel pressured to keep up with the rest of your class -- especially if you're an absolute beginner. To build up your stamina, ACE advises doing some self-training before you sign up for a group class. Pedal at your own pace, adjusting the tension on your stationary bike to what you can tolerate. Slow down and take a break if you need to. According to ACE, a study conducted by the California State University at Northridge, published in the November/December 1997 issue of "ACE Fitness Matters," indicates that the intensity level of most indoor cycling classes exceeds the physical abilities of beginning and part-time exercisers, putting them at risk for over-exertion. One way to make sure you're not pushing yourself is to check your heart rate. A simpler way is to take the "talk test," adds ACE. You should be able to hold a conversation while you're pedaling.

Take Precautions

Riding a stationary bike indoors works off around the same number of calories as your average step class, notes ACE, with the added benefit of being a low-impact exercise, which is less stressful on your joints. However, before you embark on an exercise program of any kind, get your doctor's OK first. Some of the circumstances that necessitate your doctor's permission are if you suffer from a chronic health condition or take medications to manage health problems such as asthma, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and a history of heart attack, to name only a few. Also consult with your physician if you're pregnant, if you smoke or just quit smoking or if you're an adult male 45 or older or an adult female 55 or older.

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