In the middle of a cycling workout, the last thing you want to worry about is lower back pain.
Enter, recumbent bikes. These are, hands-down, the best stationary bikes for back pain, says Vanessa Parker, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist with Bespoke Treatments in New York City.
While they work your legs and heart just as hard as any stationary bike can, recumbents also provide excellent back support. This helps reduce excess stress on your spine and lower-back muscles. The result: You get a great, feel-good workout!
Here, she shares the six best exercise bikes with back support and how to pick the right one for you.
1. Sole Fitness LCR
Offering a quiet, smooth ride with good lumbar (aka lower back) support, the Sole Fitness LCR is a great bike for back pain. Its 10.1-inch LCD screen sits at eye-level, which helps keep your spine in line and prevent strain, according to Parker.
It also has 40 different resistance levels and a 350-pound weight capacity.
Buy it: SoleTreadmills.com; Price: $1,499.99
2. ProForm 440 ES
ProForm's recumbent bike takes back safety seriously. Its unique lumbar-support seat resembles an ergonomic desk chair, making it one of the best bikes for bad backs, Parker says.
The ProForm 440 ES also has extra wide pedals for a more stable ride. It's also enabled with iFit (a virtual training platform) for anyone who loves virtual cycling classes.
Buy it: ProForm.com; Price: $699
3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RB4850
If you're biking with back pain, you don't want your feet too close or too far from your seat. (More on that below.) Parker likes that this machine's easy-to-use lever lets you adjust your distance without needing to get up or bend over.
This exercise bike also has a wide cushioned seat and textured grip pedals to help you feel nice and stable.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $369
4. Welill Recumbent
Welill's bicycle has eight resistance levels, making it a simple-to-use beginners bike. Twist the knob between your legs to adjust the resistance.
This exercise bike has several handlebar options at the front and along its sides, allowing you to adjust your back positioning while you ride, Parker says. The handles can also give you a little extra support when you get down onto and up off of the machine. The bicycle has a 380-pound weight capacity.
Buy it: Welill.com; Price: $299.58
5. Schwinn 270
With its contoured mesh seat, this bike helps keep your back comfortable and cool. Although the bike's large frame takes up a decent amount of space, it also has a better base of support than some smaller models do. Translation: It won't wobble from side to side as you pedal.
Schwinn's bike saves up to four user profiles and tracks your workouts over time.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $549
6. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Recumbent
This cardio machine has moveable handles to give you the core- and arm-strengthening benefits of an elliptical, she says.
But, unlike an elliptical, this recumbent bicycle keeps your back supported and in place.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $344.99
How to Find the Best Stationary Bike for Back Pain
1. Prioritize a Good Backrest
When you're dealing with lower back pain, the first thing you need to look for is an exercise bike with back support, Parker says.
Go with a sturdy but soft cushion and ergonomic seat. These curve in the lower-back area to give your lumbar spine good support, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Choose one that you can also adjust forward and backward, she says. With each stroke, you don't want to fully lock out your knee. Move the seat until you can maintain a slight bend at all times.
2. Look for the Right Handlebars
On a stationary bike with back support, handlebars can sometimes increase comfort.
Most bikes have handlebars in two places. Handlebars next to the seat cushion allow you to relax your arms at your sides while reclining against the backrest, Parker says. Handles in front under the screen help you to sit more upright and change up your posture. Look for both.
3. Find Secure Foot Straps
If your feet move around during your workout, it will make it harder to keep your spine in a stable, neutral position, according to Parker. That's why you need to find pedals with totally adjustable, fastening foot straps.
Why Recumbent Bikes Are Best for Back Pain
Upright stationary bikes typically have a smaller seat and keep your body in a tall, unsupported position. They allow for more side-to-side, back and forth movement that works your back and core muscles.
Put simply, upright bikes are ideal for people who feel more comfortable in an upright position, according to Parker. Generally, these people aren't dealing with low back pain.
Meanwhile, recumbent bikes are more supportive, putting less stress on your lower back muscles and spine. So, if your lower back is sensitive and tends to feel better in a seated, relaxed position, recumbent bikes are the best for you.