Cycling is a century-old sport that was once reserved for elite athletes. And then came spin classes. Nearly every big box gym now has a dedicated studio for those heart-pumping, music-blaring, interval-focused workouts. As if that wasn’t enough, SoulCycle and Flywheel opened up, giving cycling enthusiasts a home away from home. Spend an hour in one of these studios, and you could burn up to 600 calories. Of course, cycling is much more than an efficient calorie-burner.
The Top 5 Benefits of Cycling
1. Cycling is low impact
While running is perhaps a more popular form of cardiovascular exercise, it’s actually a weight-bearing activity. You may not be lifting a dumbbell, but you are moving your own body weight without any assistance (except maybe an awesome pair of sneaks). A bike, on the other hand, removes some of that weight, which is why cycling is considered a low-impact exercise. Less pressure on your joints and ligaments means less risk for injury. Cheers to that!
2. Cycling builds and strengthens muscles
Cycling primarily targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes. (Who’s going to complain about a more sculpted rear?) But you can increase the workload on these muscles by using some resistance while you ride. During a stationary bike workout, that may mean cranking up the resistance. If you ride outside, you’ll get extra resistance from hill training or heavy winds. Over time, the extra workload will help build stronger, more defined legs and glutes. And remember: the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
3. Cycling strengthens your core
When you pedal (especially if you’re listening to upbeat music), your body will naturally fall into a rhythm. Just be sure the music doesn’t overtake you and you drop out of proper positioning on the bike. Think about engaging your core muscles throughout the workout. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can take it up a level. With your upper body slightly bent forward, tighten the core and sway just a little side-to-side as you pedal. This will work your obliques as you fire up those legs.
4. Cycling improves heart and lung health
Cycling gets the heart to beat faster, which promotes good cardiovascular health. But the benefits don’t come from just one workout. It’s been reported that regular bike riding stimulates the heart, lungs and circulatory system, which may reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Just 20 minutes of cycling a day can help reduce heart disease.
5. Cycling burn calories and fat.
Burning calories can’t go unmentioned. Whether you cycle indoors or on the road, the leg-driving exercise expends a ton of energy. The open air offers a greater calorie burn, because you have more elements to work against. But a guided, one-hour spin class often includes high-intensity intervals, which can lead to excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). In other words, you may burn more calories after the workout than if you kept a consistent heart rate for an hour. Make sure you’re following a healthy, whole-food-based diet, and you’ll burn fat, as well.
Get started with cycling
Spin classes are great if you’re just getting started. However, they may seem a little intimating at first. If you’re not ready to jump into a class, you can still enjoy cycling benefits on your own. Follow these tips to get you ready to ride, and then try the 20-minute stationary bike workout below.
What you’ll need:
- Water bottle
- Small towel
- Comfortable top
- Headphones and an energizing playlist
- Biking shorts and/or a padded seat attachment
How to adjust a stationary bike:
To adjust the seat, stand next to the stationary bike and align the seat to be even with your hip. Then, sit in the seat and position the handlebars so your back and neck aren’t strained. You don’t want to be overreaching to hold the handlebars. Whether you strap your feet into the pedal or not, make sure the balls of your feet rest on the center of the pedal. If using the straps, make sure they are securely fastened.
A stationary bike workout for beginners
Start with this 20-minute workout 3 days per week with a rest day in between. Gradually add a few minutes each session until you can comfortably handle a 30-minute workout.
0 – 5 mins. – Warm up, using low resistance at a comfortable pace.
5 – 8 mins. – Increase resistance so you’re working at a moderate pace.
8 – 10 mins. – Increase resistance again to work slightly harder than your moderate pace.
10 – 13 mins. – Lower resistance back to moderate pace.
13 – 15 mins. – Increase again to a harder pace.
15 – 20 mins. – Lower resistance back to your comfortable pace to cool down.
Trainer tip: listen to a playlist of upbeat music and adjust the resistance knob according to the songs. When a fast tempo comes on, turn up the resistance, stand up out of the saddle and pedal fast until the beat changes. Sit back down and lower the resistance. Those 20-30 minutes will fly by!