Riding a stationary bike at the gym can be an effective form of cardiovascular exercise. While it might not typically burn as many calories as riding a bike outdoors, it is easier on the joints and has the advantage of being accessible in any type of weather. A modified form of the stationary bike -- an indoor cycling bike -- is commonly used in group classes, which offer a vigorous, guided workout. Used appropriately, a stationary bike can be a helpful part of an exercise regimen.
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One notable advantage in riding a stationary bike is its ease of use. You are not confronted with obstacles or dangers that you might encounter when riding outdoors, and you can move at your own pace. In addition, many gyms offer the choice of upright or recumbent bikes, which are lower to the ground and easier to use if you have back problems or issues with your hips. Riding a stationary bike can burn close to the same amount of calories as riding outdoors, depending on your level of intensity. Many gyms also offer indoor cycling group classes, which can burn 400 to 500 calories in a 40-minute workout.
The biggest disadvantage in riding a stationary bike is that it only works the lower legs. Riding a bike outdoors also engages the arms. Another problem can be boredom. If you are not paying attention, you may not work as hard as you would if you were riding outdoors. Riding outdoors increases the number of calories burned because of various resistance factors, such as headwind, and a basic stationary bike might not have settings to compensate for that.
Riding a stationary bike should be included as part of an overall exercise program. For example, you can do 10 to 15 minutes on an exercise bike, then switch to an elliptical device, which will work the upper arms as well as the legs. Many exercise bikes have settings that allow you to increase resistance, which will make up the calorie difference lost by not riding outdoors. The American Council on Exercise recommends getting some form of cardio, such as riding a stationary bike, three to five days a week for 30 minutes at a time to maintain health.
Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise regimen. If you are just starting an exercise program, start with little or no resistance on the bike settings and keep a moderate pace. Gradually build your way up to more intense exercise. Riding a stationary bike and other forms of exercise should be combined with a healthful, low-calorie diet for the best results in achieving optimal health.