When it's too cold to cycle outdoors or you're bored with regular indoor cycling, hop on an air bike. Unlike other exercise bikes you pedal only with your feet, air bikes require you to use your feet and hands. And instead of a flywheel and magnetic or friction braking, it has a large fan for resistance.
You can purchase a one — like the Schwinn Airdyne bike — for use at home or use the air bikes at your gym or fitness studio. They're commonly used in cardiac rehabilitation but also popular among CrossFitters, as you can adjust the intensity of the workout by how much effort you exert.
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If you use one consistently for an extended period of time, you'll improve your cardiovascular fitness, just like with any other form of cardio exercise. But the design also leads to several unique benefits for regular users.
Check Out These 4 Air Bike Benefits
1. Provides a Full-Body Workout
Like many elliptical machines and cross-trainers, air bikes have handles you can push and pull to target your upper-body muscles as you pedal with your lower-body muscles. Plus, you not only use your core to hold you upright on the bike but also to press the arms back and forth.
2. Features Instantly Variable Resistance
The fan means more air resistance than other bikes, so to set your intensity level you need to pedal or push harder, making your workout more demanding. This means you can instantly change the difficulty of your workout and work aerobically or anaerobically without having to alter any settings. This makes air bikes ideal for interval training.
3. Is a Low-Impact Workout
Activities that involve running and jumping can be hard on your joints — especially if you're taller or heavier or have ankle, hip, knee or spine issues. Cycling on a bike supports your weight, which takes some pressure off your joints, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
4. Effectively Burns Calories
When you pedal an air bike, you're doing aerobic exercise. That means doing a continuous movement that elevates your heart rate and respiration and uses your large muscle groups, according to the American Heart Association.
Cycling involves continuous movement of your legs to apply force to move the pedals. And using your arms and legs together burns a ton of calories. Plus, the faster you go, the more calories you burn.
While the exact number of calories you burn depends on your body weight and workout intensity, according to Harvard Health Publishing, here's how many calories a 185-pound person would burn doing 30-minutes of each of the following:
- Cycling at moderate intensity: 294
- Cycling at vigorous intensity: 441
- Using the elliptical: 378
How Long Should an Air Bike Workout Be?
If the above benefits have convinced you to try out an air bike workout for your next cardio workout, you may be curious how long your workout should be to reap these rewards. Here's a basic guide to figuring out the ideal workout length for you:
For General Health
If your goal is to maintain your health and reduce your risk of diseases such as cardiac problems or diabetes, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity) cardio exercise each week (or a combination of the two).
You can break that down into three 25-minute HIIT cycling workouts, or you could do 30 minutes of moderate cycling on five days a week. If you can't do 30 minutes at once, break up your workout into 10-minute intervals, three times a day.
For Weight Loss
If your goal is weight loss, you'll need to do a little bit of math. First of all, in order to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds in a week (the amount recommended by the Mayo Clinic), you'll want to create a daily calorie deficit (burning more than you consume) of 500 to 700 calories.
That ideally means you'll cut the calories you eat by 250 to 350 and increase your caloric burn through exercise by the same amount (or some other way that adds up to 500 to 700). One of the fastest ways to burn calories is with HIIT (alternating between high-intensity effort and rest), but steady-state cardio also burns significant calories while being more beginner-friendly.
If an hour on your air bike sounds boring, mix up your routine to keep it fresh. For example, every 5 minutes, alternate between pedaling with your feet, arms or both for the duration of your workout. You can also vary the speed at which you pedal.
Placing your bike in front of the television and exercising while watching your favorite program or movie can also help pass the time, but don't get distracted by the show and slow your pace.
- Schwinn Fitness: "Schwinn Airdyne Exercise Bikes"
- American Heart Association: "Endurance Exercise (Aerobic)"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The top 5 benefits of cycling"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories"