Outside of calories burned, stationary bike exercise works your hips, knees and ankles. But the burn is nothing to sneeze at — you'll shed at least twice as much with a good stationary bike workout compared to a brisk walk, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Of course, the number of calories you burn on a stationary bike varies, depending on several factors, but wide-ranging benefits like increased endurance, improved heart health and reduced stress levels can be felt across the board, giving you plenty of reason to get your pedal on.
Variables matter, but in general, it's not uncommon to burn more than 300 calories in 30 minutes on an exercise bike.
Calories Burned: Stationary Bike Averages
Although each individual's circumstances and weight loss results are bound to vary, you can take a look at calories burned on a stationary bike in terms of some reputable averages. According to Harvard Health Publishing at the Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person who cycles vigorously for 30 minutes on a stationary bike burns an estimated 391 calories.
Harvard's estimate lines up pretty well with data from the American Council on Exercise too. According to ACE, that same 155-pound person burns roughly 421 calories per 30 minutes of cycling at a pace of 16 to 19 miles per hour, a racing-worthy speed that certainly counts as pretty vigorous.
To put those figures in context, the general rule for losing 1 pound of body weight is to decrease your caloric intake by 3,500 calories (remember, calories are a measure of energy, not a measure of weight or nutrition). You could do that in a healthy fashion by reducing your caloric intake by 250 calories and increasing your caloric expenditure by 250 calories per day for seven days, for instance.
Of course, these average estimates are just one tiny slice of a much larger spectrum of possibilities. Sex, age, weight, body composition and your resting metabolic rate, among other factors, all affect how you burn calories, as Mayo Clinic notes.
When working out on a stationary bike, as is the case with other forms of cardio and strength training exercises, the duration and intensity of the activity also has a significant impact on your calorie burn.
Although it would be just about impossible to cover every single possible outcome of the amount of calories burned on a stationary bike, it's worth diving into some common variables and how they affect your results.
Just in terms of body weight, Harvard's projections put calorie burn for an energetic half hour on a stationary bike at 315 calories for a 125-pound person and 466 calories for a 185-pound person — for context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place the average weight of an American woman at 170.5 pounds, with the average man clocking in at 197.8 pounds.
This difference is due to the fact that heavier people or those who have more muscle mass burn more calories throughout the day.
Now try dialing down and ramping up the exercise intensity. Using the American Council on Exercise's Physical Activity Calorie Counter, here are some estimated results for a half-hour of cycling with different body weights and intensities, ranging from a leisurely Sunday pedal to more intense racing speeds:
- 125 pounds at 5.5 mph: 113 calories
- 155 pounds at 5.5 mph: 140 calories
- 185 pounds at 5.5 mph: 167 calories
- 125 pounds at 12 to 13 mph: 226 calories
- 155 pounds at 12 to 13 mph: 281 calories
- 185 pounds at 12 to 13 mph: 335 calories
- 125 pounds at 16 to 19 mph: 340 calories
- 155 pounds at 16 to 19 mph: 421 calories
- 185 pounds at 16 to 19 mph: 503 calories
Workout duration will factor in too. Using ACE's figures and the CDC's weight averages, an hour-long session on an exercise bike for a 170-pound person pedaling at a moderate speed of about 12 to 13 mph burns roughly 616 calories, while a 197-pound person burns 714 calories.
A high-intensity Spinning class lasts about 45 minutes; sticking with the same weights, that places the burn at about 690 calories or 803 calories, respectively. In any case, that's a pretty good workout.
Read more: Exercise Bike vs. Walking
Pedal Your Way to Health
Exercising on a stationary bike certainly provides a respectable calorie burn, but that's not all it's good for. As a solid cardiovascular workout, it works both your heart and lungs. This sort of aerobic exercise also benefits your brain and blood vessels, and can even improve your general mood via the release of chemicals known as endorphins, according to MensLine Australia.
Speaking of mood, MensLine goes on to note that cycling packs some mental health perks too. In addition to endorphins, the increased blood flow encourages the release of mood boosters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. This helps reduce stress, depression and anxiety while bolstering self-esteem. Regular riding can also improve your circadian rhythm, making for a better night's sleep, and build the brain cells responsible for a keen memory.
Still not sold? Regular workouts on the exercise bike can improve your day-to-day endurance and balance, which affects how well you walk, stand and even climb stairs, says Harvard Health Publishing. In fact, a study of 38 stroke patients published in the November 2015 edition of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that stationary cycling training could potentially improve both balance and gait abilities.
As a low-impact exercise, stationary cycling goes easy on the joints. More than that, the resistance of pushing against the pedal helps increase bone density in the long term.
Because indoor (and outdoor) cycling is an effective builder of lower-body strength, it can also be used as a recovery tool for those with knee, hip or other orthopedic issues. While biking outside and hopping on a stationary bike share the same set of bodily benefits, the stationary bike offers a more controllable, customizable and oftentimes more approachable experience too.
- ExRx.net: "Cycle Ergometer"
- American Council on Exercise: "Physical Activity Calorie Counter"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Indoor Cycling for Older Adults"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics: "Body Measurements"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Top 5 Benefits of Cycling"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Spinning: Good for the Heart and Muscles, Gentle on the Joints"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress"