As well as helping to prevent health issues such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and mental illness, they can also be used to help fix a number of existing health problems.
These include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular health.
With so many people now leading a sedentary lifestyle due to extended hours commuting and working in office jobs, exercise bikes offer a convenient way to exercise when you have limited time.
Easy to use and requiring little in the way of space or setup, you can also choose from a range of designs to suit your available space and budget.
We’ve now taken a closer look at these benefits, backed them up with research into actual scientific studies, and put them together in the following comprehensive guide.
Before you buy a bike
Even once you’ve made the decision to invest in an exercise bike, with so many different designs available, it can be difficult to know which one to choose.
The first step is to decide which type of bike will be most beneficial in helping you to achieve your health and fitness goals.
There are generally 3 main types to choose from, each with their own unique style of exercise:
- Aerobic group cycles – These tend to have a much larger flywheel than upright bikes.The aerobic group cycles also feel more like cycling on the road, due to the difference in inertia than can be created by their perimeter weighting.
- Recumbent style bikes – The lowest impact form of indoor cycling.These are generally the bike of choice when physiologists are suggesting a form of exercise to help build back muscle strength during rehabilitation after an injury, or for anyone with lower levels of mobility.
- Upright stationary bikes – The most popular option with home gyms, upright bikes can vary greatly in price, depending on the features you need.Smaller ‘manual’ style bikes will generally be much lower priced than the programmable electronic versions, but will also offer less workout options.
While we’ve dedicated this article to explaining the range of exercise bike benefits, we also have a separate buying guide for indoor exercise bikes.
Even if you already own or use a stationary exercise bike, we would recommend having a quick read of the guide to make sure you get the best price on the bike you need.
Health benefits of indoor cycling
While many of the benefits are fairly obvious, such as helping to manage your weight and improve your cardiovascular health, there are also some benefits to cycling that are not talked about as often.
These include improving muscular flexibility, reducing lower back pain, reducing the risk of health problems such as Diabetes, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reducing lower back pain – For this benefit to be true, it’s important you adjust the saddle and handlebar settings to suit your height and range of motion.
There have been studies which show that pressure pain perception can be reduced following cycling workouts amongst people with low back pain.
Improving muscular flexibility and range of motion – Although the average exercise bike doesn’t offer much in the way of upper body training (Airdyne and other combination cycles being the exceptions), they can still be used to effectively train the same muscles as running or road cycling.
Particularly if your day job is fairly sedentary, regular workouts on an exercise bike will help stiff muscles relax.
This then has carry over benefits to your resistance exercises, where a fuller range of motion can be used on multi-joint exercises such as the squat or hamstring curl.
Increased chance of maintaining the resulting weight loss – After losing weight and getting down to your target level, the last thing you want to do is start putting the weight back on.
But with so many different weight loss maintenance strategies available, it can be difficult to know the best way to avoid this happening.
According to results from the National Weight Control Registry, of the registrants who managed to maintain their weight loss, 94% had increased their physical activity.
This means that the regular exercise you can get from a stationary bike must be maintained in combination with any diet plan to have the greatest effect.
Reduced risk of Diabetes – The 3 year Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study also looked at comparing two groups of people who were overweight and with impaired glucose tolerance; one group received general dietary and exercise advice, while the other was offered circuit type resistance training and advised to increase physical activity.
The study concluded that the intensive lifestyle intervention method used for group 2 was “a feasible option to prevent type 2 Diabetes and should be implemented in the primary health care system.”
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease – A study carried out on ischemic heart disease patients in a Denmark hospital found that the most positive patients exercised more, and had a 42 percent less chance of dying for any reason during the follow-up period.
Improvements in cardiovascular health from regular exercise have also been linked to reducing high blood pressure, boosting your immune system, helping to regulate blood sugar, and even preventing heart attacks.
How often should you use an exercise bike?
Once that’s done, it really depends on your current level of fitness as to how frequently you need to include a cycling workout in your weekly schedule.
It’s generally recommended that you should get 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 times per week.
If you are new to fitness programs then it’s probably best to start off at 30 minutes twice per week and gradually build up to the 5 day plan.
Between diet and exercise, you should generally aim for no more than 1.5 to 2 lb of weight loss each week, to give yourself the best chance of maintaining your new weight.
With a Pilot Study published in The Lancet Oncology showing that changes in diet, exercise, and stress management could make you live longer, it’s important to make sure that any exercise plan you do put together is realistic and can be maintained.
Advantages of exercise bikes
You don’t have to worry about the weather – An important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is regular exercise. If you have an exercise plan in place, it’s often difficult to make up the time during the week if you happen to miss a training session.
By having a stationary bike, this removes one of the most common reasons for missing an outdoor cycling session, keeping you on-track to achieving your fitness goals.
Not dependant on the time of day – Even if you normally cycle at the gym and not outdoors, in many cases the gym isn’t open 24 hours per day.
With an exercise bike at home, it’s much easier to fit a cycling workout in around a busy schedule and long work hours.
Ability to track and plan your workouts – Even if you are on a strict budget, the vast majority of exercise bikes include a display console that provides feedback on important workout information.
This can vary from the basics, such as Watt measurement and RPM (Revolutions per minute), to being able to plan your cycle route using Google Maps around a real-life course.
Regular exercise bike workouts can also lead to:
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Improved joint mobility
- Decreased stress levels
- Improved strength, balance, and coordination
- Strengthened bones
- Decreased body fat levels
- Prevention or management of disease
- Reduced anxiety and depression
Disadvantages of exercise bikes
While exercise bikes are a popular choice for both home and commercial gyms, it’s important to also be aware of any disadvantages.
Predominantly focuses on lower body training – If you are thinking about using a stationary bike as your main source for cardiovascular workouts, you’ll need to make sure you also include some form of resistance training during the week.
Unlike elliptical trainers and Airdyne bikes, your standard upright or recumbent bike will mainly focus on developing your quads, hamstrings, and calves.
To maintain a balanced physique, you need to also find a way to train your upper body, including your core, chest, back, and arms.
If you have access to a set of free weights, then you can always use these to train the different muscle groups.
Alternatively, you can combine your indoor cycling with elliptical workouts using one of the 2-in-1 machines that are available.
This can be achieved with lower priced bikes, but is much easier if you find a design that also includes a high quality display console and built-in workout programs.
The luxury bikes by Tunturi are just a few examples of where you can display your cycle on a large screen as you follow the route you chose from a range of preset options.
Bikes that use computers with built-in workout options also encourage you to keep to a plan and challenge yourself.
This is in contrast to lower priced bikes that let you get away with some less than challenging speed and resistance settings.
Your workouts use an indoor setting – Similar to the lack of mental stimulation is the fact that all of your workouts will be based indoors.
While this can be preferential in the colder months and when the weather is bad outside, in the summer it can be much more difficult to keep cool and motivate yourself to workout indoors.
How many calories can you burn?
Being such an important number when dieting, it can be useful to know how effective stationary bike cycling is as a form of exercise for burning calories.
This is particularly true if you don’t have much time available to workout during the week, and you need to burn the most calories in the shortest time.
Although the calorie burn for exercise bikes is less than using a treadmill or elliptical, the style of the exercise actually makes it lower impact and safer for your joints.
Whether you decide on an exercise bike, treadmill or, elliptical, it’s always best to base your choice on the form of exercise you most enjoy.
Even if a treadmill helps you burn more calories than an exercise bike, if you hate running then you probably won’t stick to your workout plan for very long.
Although many exercise bikes do offer ‘calories burned’ as one of the items of feedback on their display screens, this figure is rarely accurate on lower priced bikes.
If you want to be sure that the number displayed is accurate, you need to find a bike that lets you enter some basic personal information, such as gender, age, and weight.
As an example of the contrast between exercise bikes and ellipticals, 30 minutes of moderate indoor cycling for a 200 lb male will burn an estimated 318 calories. That’s compared to the same person using an elliptical for the same amount of time, but burning 516 calories.
There are various online calorie burn calculators you can use to calculate these figures yourself, but one of the best we’ve found is the one by Health Status.
Not only can you calculate the calories burned on a stationary bike, but also for everyday activities and a variety of different sports.
Whether you are doing it to lose weight or simply improve your overall health, physical exercise in some form should definitely be a part of your weekly schedule.
Although cycling is one of the most popular ways to keep fit, it’s not always practical or possible to be able to use a road bike for your workouts at all times of year.
The range of exercise bike benefits has now extending beyond improving your health and into becoming something that can be fun and enjoyable.
We’ve already seen the ability to browse the internet, upload your workout statistics to online fitness programs, email while cycling, and setup virtual cycle routes in countries around the world. The question is, what will be next?
Let us know in the comments what you would like to see on an exercise bike to make you want to use it more often!