Exercise Bike Types
There are upright and recumbent bikes, and there are even desk exercise bikes available. By using a trainer, one could turn a street bike into an exercise bike in the home, as well. The recumbent exercise bike benefits are, perhaps, best for people who have physical therapy needs or other musculoskeletal issues that would make an upright bicycle uncomfortable or inadvisable. A recumbent exercise bike is said to be “more ergonomic & bio-mechanically correct”. In an upright bike, a rider sits above, rather than into the bike frame. An upright bike is more similar to a road bike, with the seat over the pedals, rather than “in-line with the pedals”, as would be found on a recumbent bike. For some riders, sitting up and leaning forward leads to sore arms, wrists, and hands, stressing them. A recumbent bike, by contrast, has the rider leaning back with the arms at the sides. The gluteal muscles may also not be exercised as well on an upright bike, unless the rider stands, whereas on a recumbent bike the “glutes” are said to “get a better workout in a reclined position”. The recumbent bike may strain the back or neck less, since the rider does not lean forward, and the risk of “saddle sore” is also reduced. By riding in a more natural position in terms of “body alignment” on a recumbent bike, the rider “reduces fatigue and increases both the ability and the desire…to continue the workout”. This may be especially true for people with neck pain or lower back issues.1 An unusual type of indoor bike is a DeskCycle, which allows a worker to pedal while seated at a desk, potentially providing more “energy expenditure” over sitting on an exercise ball or standing.2
Benefits of Exercise Bike
Is biking good exercise? Yes, even if it is done on an exercise bike, it is good exercise. If one compares an exercise bike vs. treadmill, then a treadmill may burn more calories. This is because running and walking are “weight-bearing exercises that engage more muscle mass than non-weight-bearing activities such as cycling”. Therefore, “weight-bearing exercises will burn more calories”. That said, exercise bikes provide effective aerobic exercise, strengthening the muscles of the lower body. Biking is also a low-impact exercise, leading to less joint and muscle trauma. So there is some benefit, even though the whole body is not working out on an exercise bike. There are several things to consider when choosing whether to work out on a treadmill or a bike, such as fitness goals, preferences, health status, physical ability, and equipment availability. Perhaps the key factor is enjoyment: people tend to exercise more regularly if they enjoy it. Even though a treadmill workout burns more calories, both biking and treadmill use reduce the risk of disease, help build muscles, and promote “feelings of well-being”. In fact, there may be a benefit to alternating machines to reduce boredom and the “risk of overuse injuries”.3
Stationary vs. Outdoor Bike
Calories are burned at different rates on indoor vs. outdoor bikes. On a stationary bike, a “155-pound person will burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes of pedaling at a moderate pace”, and 391 at a “vigorous pace”. For a person weighing 185 lbs, that becomes, respectively, “311 and 466 calories”. That same workout done on an outdoor bike yields 372-446 calories for the 155 lb. person and 444-533 calories for the 185 lb. individual. There are advantages to a stationary bike, though, in that weather is not a concern, and there is the option of listening to music or watching TV at the same time, which can make one want to exercise more often. One concern about gyms, though, is that a group cycling class could lead to a person pushing themselves too hard at a level that is unsafe for their personal fitness. If choosing to take a class, a person should be able to stop when they are not feeling well. As for outdoor biking, one may opt to “coast” down a hill and not burn calories. Also, if pedaling in a crowded area, the rider will have to reduce speed, especially in a city, where traffic and red lights decrease the pace.4 If a person adjusts the settings of an indoor bike and works out at the same intensity as outdoor riding, the calories burned could be comparable. A group cycling class can provide “camaraderie” and the instructor might push the rider to perform a better workout than the person would get by cycling alone, assuming that they do not push themselves beyond their limits. It may also be easier to pedal while standing on an indoor cycle than on an outdoor one. In addition, stationary bikes have more comfortable seats than road bikes.5
Find out more about biking for health.