How Often Should I Cycle at the Gym for Weight Loss?

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Three sessions a week is good for cycling at the gym.
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If you've joined a gym and are thinking about signing up for an indoor cycling class (or a Spin class) for weight loss, here's what you need to know about how it works and how often you should be doing it. Give it a spin — it could be fun!

Read more: You Have a Gym Membership, Now What? Try These Beginner Workouts

Tip

Doing three indoor cycling sessions a week can help you meet your minimum exercise requirements, although you may choose to do more if you prefer.

Indoor Cycling Classes

Most gyms offer indoor cycling classes on specially designed stationary bikes. Harvard Health Publishing notes that the sessions usually last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and are led by instructors who guide the class through a rigorous workout that is accompanied by the beat of pumping music.

The Wexner Medical Center describes indoor cycling as a cardio workout that can give you a pretty intense cardio burn. Indoor cycling classes usually alternate between periods of high intensity and slower periods of recovery, and can help you build your endurance. The music can help motivate you and push you to work harder than you normally would, but in a safe way.

According to the Wexner Medical Center, you have the option to add resistance to your bike, which can help build your muscular strength. Since cycling primarily involves pedaling your legs, it helps you build lower body muscular strength in particular, says Harvard Health Publishing.

Despite the fact that indoor cycling can be a fairly intense workout, Harvard Health Publishing clarifies that it is in fact a low-impact exercise. Unlike running or speed-walking, which are higher-impact activities, cycling doesn't place as much stress on your joints. It is therefore a good workout option for older people with hip or knee problems, or people who are recovering from orthopedic injuries. In fact, many gyms offer special indoor cycling classes for seniors.

Read more: The Best Low-Impact Exercises That Burn the Most Calories

The Wexner Medical Center adds a cautionary note for those who have spine conditions, since indoor cycling classes can involve hunching over the bike with your back rounded for long periods of time. You should check with your doctor or physical therapist if you have concerns.

Spin Class for Weight Loss

The Mayo Clinic explains that in order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. You can do this in two ways. One way is to reduce the number of calories you eat per day, which will force your body to rely on stored fat for energy. The other is to increase your physical activity, so that you burn more calories per day.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories, so you would need to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound a week. Of course, this is just an approximation; everyone's body is different and the rate at which you lose weight and where you lose it can differ from person to person.

Given that indoor cycling is quite an intense exercise, it can help you burn a significant amount of calories and contribute to the calorie deficit you need to create in order to lose weight. South Dakota State University (SDSU) estimates that you can burn anywhere between 300 and 600 calories in a 45-minute indoor cycling session.

Per the Mayo Clinic, the exact number of calories you burn can depend on several factors like the length and intensity of the indoor cycling session, the amount of resistance you add to your bike and individual factors like your age, height, weight and gender. The American Council on Exercise has a calorie burn calculator that can help you estimate how many calories you will burn per session.

Read more: How Weight Loss Really Works — and How to Get Started

How Often Should You Go?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. You can also do an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise per week. This exercise should be spread out over the week.

SDSU categorizes indoor cycling as a high-intensity exercise but you can verify this by paying attention to your breathing during the session. The American Heart Association explains that during moderate-intensity exercise, you will be able to speak but won't be able to sing, whereas during high-intensity exercise you won't be able to speak in full sentences.

You can plan your indoor cycling class schedule depending on the length and intensity of the sessions. For instance, three high-intensity classes that last between 30 to 60 minutes each should cover your minimum exercise requirement, although you can do more if you prefer to be more active. If the classes vary between moderate- and high-intensity, you can opt for a higher frequency.

A small study published in the April 2018 issue of the Journal of Education and Training Studies found that cycling indoors for 30 to 60 minutes, three times a week, helped women lose significant amounts of weight. Over the course of six weeks, those who were obese by World Health Organization (WHO) standards were able to move to the overweight category and those who were overweight by WHO standards were able to move to the normal weight category.

Apart from helping you lose weight, indoor cycling can also help improve your body composition, by helping you lose fat and gain muscle. A small study published in the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that indoor cycling three times a week significantly reduced the participants' body-fat percentage. The study also noted significant improvements in other health markers, like blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Read more: What Really Happens to Your Body When You Start Exercising?

Other Things to Consider

Along with your indoor cycling classes, it's worth considering adding a strength workout to your exercise routine to help develop your upper-body strength.

While indoor cycling can help you achieve your cardio requirements and help you develop the muscles in your lower body, especially if you add resistance to your bike, you don't want to neglect your upper body. If, for instance, you go to an indoor cycling class three times a week, you can complement it with an upper-body strength training workout once a week.

It's also crucial that you pay attention to what you eat. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reminds you that while exercise is one of the tools in your weight-loss arsenal, what you eat and how much you eat are perhaps more important when it comes to shedding excess weight. Apart from doing Spin class for weight loss, it's also important that you follow a balanced, healthy diet and practice portion control.

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