If you think those stationary bikes at the gym are for serious cyclists only, guess again. Getting a cardio session in with a stationary bike workout is an excellent way for you to burn calories, improve your heart health and sculpt your legs. Riding an exercise bike can also decrease your chances of developing certain diseases and protect your joints as it is a low-impact activity.
The primary muscle groups recruited during a stationary bike workout include the lower body muscles, and more specifically, the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and calves. And, if your back is flat and posture upright, you can also target the abdominal muscles.
For overall health benefits, ride an exercise bike 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
How Long to Ride?
Determining how long to ride an exercise cycle depends on your fitness goals. If you're looking for cardiovascular and overall health benefits, adhering to the cardiovascular exercise guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will suffice.
The guidelines recommend that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. This translates nicely into 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
More serious cyclists may use an exercise bike to train in the off-season or when the weather is not cooperating. Their goals will look very different than someone who is trying to get in shape or maintain their current fitness level.
But if your primary goal is weight loss, you might be wondering how often you should ride a stationary bike to lose weight.
Exercise Bike for Weight Loss
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Since eating is both a necessity and a pleasurable activity, it's easy to rack up calories during the day.
Therefore, you want to burn as many calories as possible during your stationary bike workout. You can do this by increasing the minimum recommended time from 30 to between 45 and 60 minutes or by increasing the intensity.
A 154-pound man exercising for 30-minutes can burn anywhere between 145 to 295 calories, depending on the intensity. Increase your activity time to 60 minutes, and now you're burning anywhere between 290 calories to 590 calories.
Designing a Stationary Bike Workout
What makes an exercise bike such a versatile piece of equipment is that you can scale the workout to any level. By adjusting the resistance up or down, you can easily change the intensity to match your needs.
This 30-minute stationary bike workout is geared toward a medium fitness level. To make it more challenging, increase the resistance or the time of the working intervals. To decrease it, lower the resistance or lengthen the rest periods.
Always begin with a five-minute warmup, cycling at very low intensity and end with a three- to five-minute cool down at the same pace. The 20 minutes of work time is a mix of high-intensity cardio bursts, followed by a lower-intensity recovery period. You will be gauging the intensity of the cardio intervals by levels or by cadence, which is the speed at which you're pedaling.
- To do a speed cardio interval, increase the cadence or speed and sprint for 30 seconds. Slow down and pedal for 15 seconds. Repeat.
- To do a resistance cardio interval, increase the resistance and pedal for 30 seconds. Decrease the resistance and pedal for 15 seconds. Feel free to stand up during resistance intervals. Repeat.
- Alternate between speed and resistance intervals for the 20-minute work period. To make it more challenging, increase the interval time.
- Listen to your body and pace yourself.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity"
- USDA: ChooseMyPlate.gov: "How Many Calories Does Physical Activity Use?"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"