It turns out you can’t go wrong with this gym standby. Not only are stationary bikes great for all fitness levels, they’re also the perfect tool for accomplishing daily exercise goals. In fact, a 30-minute workout on a stationary bike can burn 300 or more calories, depending on intensity. You might be in your living room, but the exercise machines offer the same calorie-burning benefits of a long bike ride, while also kick-starting metabolism for faster weight loss – paired with a healthy diet, of course.
Spinning Into Shape
Stationary bike classes, called "spinning," are hugely popular. Heard of SoulCycle yet? If you haven’t, there’s surely a studio coming to your town soon. But spinning classes are also accessible because the equipment needed for them is minimal, and the classes provide a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that burns lots of calories.
Stationary bikes often include built-in resistance controls that can be changed according to each participant's fitness level, raising the resistance to mimic going uphill or lowering it to pedal faster but more easily. This allows people of all levels to ride together in a group setting while still getting an intense workout. Some stationary bikes allow riders to track calories burned, which can help them set goals for the intensity of each workout.
Burning Legs, Burning Calories
Hammering away on the stationary bike? You’re engaging the calf, quadriceps, core and arm muscles, increasing the rate at which exercisers burn calories. However, the rate varies from person to person, and a person can burn more or less depending on effort expended, diet, how much resistance is applied and overall fitness levels.
Spinning.com reports that their participants generally burn 400-600 calories per hour. That may be why spinning fans are such devotees of their classes.
How to Maximize Calorie Burn on the Bike
One of the ways to maximize calorie burn on a stationary bike is through high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. The idea is that you pedal as fast as you can for a short amount of time at a high resistance and then lower the resistance and speed for a recovery time then repeat.
The Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse tested 16 adults doing 20-minute, high-intensity interval exercises and found that calorie burning was maximized when participants pushed themselves to their absolute limit. "You should be feeling extremely uncomfortable. If you aren't exhausted by the end of this workout you aren't doing it right," says John Porcari, who led the HPL research team.
But how "uncomfortable" should you be? It basically means out-of-the-saddle sprinting at multiple points during a 30-minute workout. The study found that calorie burning during HIIT training peaked at 15 calories per minute, meaning that pushing yourself during intervals could help you burn off a max of 450 calories in 30 minutes.
The Science Behind the Spin
We’ve all seen those people at the gym pedaling steadily for 45 minutes, but there’s evidence that a 30-minute HIIT workout can maximize calorie burn better than a longer workout. A study by Angelo Tremblay of the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory at Laval University found that the decrease in fat was "ninefold greater" in young adults who used shorter, high-intensity workouts than longer endurance training.
The good news is that stationary bikes are perfect for these kinds of high-intensity interval exercises. They offer a low impact workout and the ability to easily change the resistance in order to get into the moderate- to high-intensity training zone.
- Daily Mail: How To Tone Up in 30 Minutes: The Intense Workouts Promising To Burn Up To Nine Hundred Calories in Less Than An Hour
- Laval University: Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism
- Spinning.com: How Many Calories are Burned in An Hour of Indoor Cycling
- Spinning.com: Spinning Program FAQ