The need to get fit, lose weight and stay healthy is emphasized in the scientific and popular media alike. In all developed countries, the incidence of overweight and obesity is dramatically increasing, along with lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. Beginning and maintaining an exercise program is an important part of staying healthy – and riding an exercise bike can help you achieve all these things.
Unlike traditional bicycles, stationary bikes are designed for exercise and not transport. Recently, many new types of exercise bike have emerged onto the market, including recumbent bikes (where you sit as if in an armchair), “spinning machines” designed for use at the gym in spin classes and dual action bikes, which offer lateral resistance in the handlebars. It is possible to adapt a traditional road cycle for use indoors, by placing the bike on rollers or on a wind trainer. This kind of adaptation is mainly used by road racing cyclists when the weather is inclement, or as a warm up prior to competition.
Cycling offers a great aerobic workout and can help to build your endurance if you do it for long enough and at an appropriate intensity and frequency. The pedaling action you use on an exercise bike is sustained by the muscles of your legs. The powerful muscles of your thighs, the quadriceps and hamstrings, are supported by the smaller muscles of your calves, included the gastrocnemius and soleus. Your buttocks also provide additional power during cycling, as do the supporting muscles of your lower back. As a result, using an exercise bike is a great way to achieve definition of your legs and bottom.
Using an exercise bike can be helpful if you are just getting started on your exercise routine and are too overweight or out of condition to run, or if you have pre-existing joint or muscle problems that will be aggravated by weight-bearing exercise. Another advantage of using an exercise bike is that you can make the workout as easy or difficult as you want, simply by varying the resistance of the bike.
So if you think cycling your way to fitness sounds like your best bet, what kind of exercise bike should you look for? Upright bikes are the traditional style of exercise bike and provide a solid aerobic workout. Dual action bikes do not use a traditional pedaling motion – your arms get a workout too. These exercise bikes have been shown to provide more effective cardio workouts and burn more calories than traditional bikes. Dual action bikes also improve your overall body tone because you are working more muscle groups. If you suffer from muscle or joint complaints, try a recumbent exercise bicycle instead of an upright bike. The slightly-reclining position you adopt when using these exercise bikes reduces the pressure on your joints, especially your knees. The recumbent position means a better abdominal workout and keeps your center of gravity low. Since your feet are more closely in line with your heart on a recumbent bike, your blood pressure stays lower and your exercise routine is therefore safer.
As with all exercise equipment, the money you pay for an exercise bike is linked to the features it will have and the build quality. Almost all indoor cycling bikes have some way of measuring speed, distance traveled and cadence (pedal rotations per minute). You can pick up an entry-level bike for about $200. Bear in mind that these bike models use a flywheel for resistance and do not have programmable exercise options – however they will give you a good workout on a budget.
Middle-of-the-range stationary bikes typically have more features, including programmable exercise modes and heart rate monitory capacity. The bikes in this price range are magnetic resistance bikes, which means resistance is achieved using a magnet. Unlike flywheel resistance models, magnetic resistance is quiet … you can exercise without waking the entire street! Magnetic resistance bikes typically retail for between $200 and $1500. If money is no object, you can lash out on a model that has everything that opens and shuts, including additional workout programming. You can easily spend more than $1500 on a deluxe exercise bike.
By regularly using your exercise bike, you will notice your cardiovascular fitness improve and your legs and gluteal muscles begin to firm up. Exercising reduces your risk of chronic diseases, helping you to live longer and in better health. Jump onto an exercise bike today!