The calories burned on a stationary bike vary from person to person depending on your weight and cycling intensity. You can choose a moderate or more vigorous intensity to suit your fitness goals. Plus, whatever the weather, you can always hop on a stationary bike and squeeze in an indoor workout.
The calories burned on a stationary bike will be different for everyone. The more you weigh and the more vigorously you cycle, the more calories you will burn.
Calories Burned on Stationary Bikes
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person cycling at a moderate pace will burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes, and a 125-person will burn less, about 210 calories. Likewise, a 155-pound person cycling at a vigorous pace will burn about 391 calories in 30 minutes, while a 125-person will burn about 315.
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If your goal with calorie burn is to lose weight, a stationary bike can help you get the job done. As you cycle, your body uses energy, as in the calories from your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake. If you burn more calories than you eat, you can lose weight through a combination of exercise and dietary restrictions.
In addition to weight loss, cycling can help you meet your minimum daily activity requirements, per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling per week.
You can also opt for 75 to 150 minutes of more vigorous cycling for the same benefits, or combine moderate and intense activity throughout the week. In addition, perform at least two days of strength training for all major muscle groups.
Importance of Proper Nutrition
When you focus on a healthy diet, it's easier to take in the nutrients that fuel your workout and won't cause weight gain. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, recommend a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, fat-free or low-fat dairy and a small amount of plant-based fats.
Avoid added sugars and saturated fats (which primarily come from animal sources and processed foods), limit your alcohol intake, and keep your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
Although carbohydrates, fats and proteins all have their role in athletic performance and recovery, carbs may be especially important.
In an expert panel report published in January 2018 in Nutrition Today, panelists pointed to quality carbohydrates as "king" when it comes to fueling high-intensity training. Examples of quality carbs include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other whole foods — particularly potatoes, which they cited as high in potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, fiber and protein.
Although the expert panel acknowledged that fat and protein can help provide energy for a workout, they added that carbs are the macronutrient most efficiently metabolized and used by the body. In addition, they said that many athletes don't consume enough carbs to replenish muscles' glycogen stores, potentially leading to diminshed performance.
For reference's sake, one panelist indicated that a serious competitor weighing 175 pounds and training for four or more hours a day may need upward of 3,800 carbohydrate calories! You probably won't need nearly that many carbs if you're cycling for 30 minutes a day, but you'll still want to consider your carbohydrate needs as you get into a workout routine.
Benefits of Stationary Bikes
There are numerous health benefits to cycling beyond the calories burned on a stationary bike. Harvard Health Publishing notes that cycling is a low-impact activity that's easy on your joints but also builds bone strength.
In addition, cycling builds muscle. In the "power" or "downstroke" phase of pedaling, you engage your glutes, quads and calves. In the "recovery" or "upstroke" phase, you use your hamstrings and hip flexors.
Your abdominal muscles also work to help you balance on the bike, while your arms and shoulders engage to grip the handlebars. Indeed, the more frequently you work out on a stationary bike, the better your ability to walk, balance and climb stairs — making it an ideal workout even as you get older.
As you ride on the bike, you also get an aerobic workout that benefits your heart, brain and blood vessels. Meanwhile, a good heart-pumping workout releases endorphins, the body's feel-good chemicals.
Read more: Muscles Targeted With a Stationary Bike
Vary Your Bike Workouts
In truth, stationary cycling can get boring — where your legs are moving, but you're not actually going anywhere. However, you can keep your workouts fresh and challenging by changing up the scenery from time to time.
If you tend to frequent the same gym over and over again, try a few of these ideas:
Go take a class. You have many different options for boutique fitness workouts today, including dedicated cycling studios. At a studio, you have the benefit of a live instructor motivating and challenging you throughout the class.
Your instructor will tell you when to add resistance for a "climb," go faster or slow down. You might also enjoy the social aspect of having other students around you as you work out together.
Go to a different gym. Sometimes, just trying out a different gym's stationary bikes — maybe in a different city — is enough to shake up your routine. Many gyms offer an inexpensive day pass where you could either ride a stationary bike or attend a group class.
Check out any added amenities while you're there, such as a sauna or a weight room, where you can add on a weight training session to your cardio workout.
Purchase a home workout bike with streaming classes. The Peloton bike, for one, comes equipped with a touchscreen display that connects you with live or on-demand classes with a cycling instructor. It mimics the experience of attending a group class, with the added bonus of your not having to drive anywhere.
Read more: List of Cardio Exercise
Do a different type of cardio. Get off the bike and go for a walk or run, or hop on an elliptical machine. Try out a cardio-based group fitness class at the gym. When you change up your routine, you'll work different muscles and reduce your risk of overuse injuries. You'll also be more likely to stick to your workouts and stay active if you're constantly challenged — not bored by your workouts.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: "Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Top 5 Benefits of Cycling"
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: "High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance"
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "The ‘Best’ Cardio Workout for a Healthy Heart"