Are exercise bikes good for weight loss?

If you’ve been debating whether to buy an exercise bike or hesitate hopping on one at the gym, wonder no more! We spill the beans on if an exercise is the best way to lose weight and the other benefits you can gain with a short ride.

In this article, we cover:

  • Top 3 benefits of using an exercise bike.
  • Facts about exercise bikes and weight loss.
  • 3 tips for using an exercise bike.
  • 4 different ways to use an exercise bike.
  • Bonus weight loss tips.

To lose weight, we must simply burn more calories than we consume. Generally, this is by eating less or moving more (or a combination of both) to ensure we are consuming less than our ‘maintenance’ calories. A TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator can be used to learn what your personal maintenance calories are. 

As an exercise bike (also known in some places as exercise cycles) helps us move more, it can be good for weight loss. What you must remember though it that if you’re not focusing on the bigger picture, an exercise bike is not the be all or end all of your weight loss problems.

To help you out, we’ve put together some tips for who may like using an exercise bike and ways to shake up your workout routine if you can use one.

Top 3 Benefits of Using an Exercise Bike

1. Regular use of an exercise bike can help you lose weight.

Like mentioned above, moving more can help you lose weight if it’s helping you consume less than your maintenance calories. If using an exercise is enjoyable to you and keeping you consistent with your training, then it’s a good option for you. Or, if you hate using it, there is a range of exercises and cardio machines and equipment you can use. Even just walking more can help.

2. Exercise bikes are very convenient.

Say you have to study or have a pile of work emails to get through, and you don’t have time to go for your normal run. You could hop on an exercise bike and get through those readings and emails while you get a good workout in, as long as you keep an eye on your heart rate and don’t slack off.

It’s best to focus on the exercise you’re doing while you workout, however, it’s better than nothing. If it’s raining, too hot or there is some other reason you can’t get outside, the bike is always there.

3. It’s exercise and exercise is good for you.

We all know cardiovascular and weight training are both good for your health. It gets our heart rate pumping, blood flowing and our muscles working. As exercise bikes are convenient and there are a range of types for almost everyone, there is no excuse not to jump on one.

Facts About Exercise Bikes & Weight Loss

You can burn anywhere from 170 to 1100 calories an hour on an exercise bike.

The number of calories you burn will depend on the user (weight, height, etc.) and the effort you put into your workout. For example, one person putting in light effort may burn 170 calories, while someone who is heavier may burn 270 calories for the same effort. Of course, these are rough figures and should not be taken as gospel. 

How can you track the calories you burn? Your best option is to wear a heart rate monitor and using a calorie burner calculator to do the math. Many smartwatches and fitness trackers will do this for you but they have been known to not be as accurate.

Exercise bikes at commercial gyms will also have bikes with calorie trackers that can be viewed on an LCD display. However, again, these should only be taken as a guide only and not completely accurate.

Outdoor and indoor cycle have been linked to knee strain and pain.

A study of 116 professional cyclists and their injuries over 12 months related to cycling showed a total of 94 injuries, with 57% of those being in the knee. However, only 9% of the cyclists missed an event due to this. 

What you need to remember is that these are professional cyclists. They will be on bikes a lot, and like almost anything, increased usage will increase chance of injury. 

Should this concern the average person? If you already have existing knee problems, go and speak to your doctor, physiotherapist or a professional who can give you advice. As for everyone else, use proper form and setup of your exercise bike and you shouldn’t have too much concern. Of course, if you do experience any discomfort or pain, cease the exercise and consult a professional.

3 Tips for Using an Exercise Bike

1. Adjust your exercise bike before getting on.

Riding an exercise bike not adjusted to you specifically can put you at risk of injury and put unnecessary strain on your joints. To set up a standard exercise bike:

  • Adjust your seat (also known as the saddle for spin bikes) so it is at your hip bone, when you’re standing next to the bike.
  •  If you can adjust the handle bar, ensure it is high enough that you could rest on them with a slight bend in your elbows.
  • A standard exercise bike won’t have pedal adjustment options, however, it will have straps, so, ensure they’re tightened enough to keep your foot in place but are not restrictive.

2. Practice good cycling form.

Using good form on any exercise machine at an actual gym or in your home gym helps prevent injury and can improve performance. Here are a few tips for practicing good form on an exercise bike:

  • When you get on the bike, ensure your hips are centered to the seat and each arch of your food centered on each pedal.
  • Keep a loose grip on the handle bars with a slight bend in your elbows. All the effort should be with your legs.
  • Engage your abs throughout your workout.

3. Warm up and cool down.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a mini exercise routine or a full 1 hour plus session, you need to warm up and cool down. Warming up prepares our body to do a workout, increasing blood flow to our muscles and heart. This helps to prevent injury.

Cooling down slowly lowers our body temperature and slow down our blood flow. By doing this, our body is returned to its baseline condition, including preventing venous pooling of blood in the lower body.

How long should your warm up and cool down be? For the average person 10 to 15 minutes for each is sufficient. You’ll want to ensure your body is warming up and you can still talk without getting too out of breath.

4 Different Ways to Use an Exercise Bike

1. Switch up the type of stationary bike you use.

Upright Exercise Bike

An upright exercise bike is your normal, run-of-the-mill stationary bike. It has basic adjustments like moving the seat up and down, an LCD screen and pedal straps, but normally nothing too fancy.

This is the type of bike you’ll find on most gym floors.

Recumbent Exercise Bike

What’s the exercise bike that is like if you’re sitting with a backrest? That’s a recumbent bike, friend. They’re often recommended for people who have back pain. However, they don’t need much ab engagement as the backrest keeps you upright.

Spin Bike

The spin bike is the stationary version of a professional cycling bike. It has one of those uncomfortable seats and pretty much everything is adjustable. If you’re used to a normal exercise bike, prepare yourself to feel like you’re flying along pretty fast when your resistance is set to low.

Dual-Action Exercise Bike

Combine an elliptical machine and a stationary bike and you have yourself a dual-action exercise bike. While you’re seated and pedalling, you also have the option to push and pull two handles, like you would on a cross trainer. You’ll be surprised how puffed you get in just a couple of minutes, especially if you go flat out.

2. Explore LISS and HIIT. 

LISS — Low-Intensity Steady State

LISS is maintaining a steady speed for a long period of time. For example, you may choose to maintain 90km per hour for 40 minutes. 

For some people, LISS is often used on an active rest day if they like to keep moving.

HIIT — High-Intensity Interval Training

When you don’t have a lot of time, HIIT training is a heavy duty solution. On a bike, you may want to do either a resistance HIIT session or a speed session. Maybe even a little of both.

For example, if you have 15 minutes, you may decide to do 1 minutes of high-intensity (fast pedalling) or crank up the resistance. Then do 1 minute 30 seconds of lower intensity to lower your heart rate, catch your breath and reach for that water bottle holder. Repeat until your 15 minutes are up.

3. Try a spin class.

Someone once said a spin class is like a sober nightclub and instead of a dancefloor, there are exercise bikes. Attending a spin class is a sure way to get your heart rate up and sweat dripping off every inch of your body, but in the most incredible-feeling way possible.

The instructor will normally take you through a workout involving normal riding, out-of-saddle (standing while pedalling) and a range of other movements. However, if you’ve never been on a spin bike before, just know that the seats do take some getting used to.

4. Adjust your resistance levels.

Time, speed and resistance levels are all things you should be looking at when progressing with training on an exercise bike. If you feel like you’re not progressing by speed alone (going further in less time) then try adjusting your resistance levels.

The resistance levels on stationary bikes mimic what it feels like to be riding up-hill. It challenges the legs and your heart rate, so it’s a good step up if you believe you need a new challenge. Remember, more effort means more calories burned.

Bonus Weight Loss Tips

Track every single calorie for a week.

A nibble of a biscuit here. Just one bite of pasta there. Some tomato sauce on some chicken. You’d be surprised how all these little things add up.

If you’re not seeing results and you swear you’ve been good with your eating and you’ve increased your activity levels, check out a calorie tracker app. You’ll want to get a food scale and literally measure everything from oils and butters to that mojito you had with dinner. 

At the end of the week, you can see if you’ve really been sticking to the plan you thought you had.

Tip: Enter your serving size as single grams. So, if you had 22g of cheese, you’d add 22g of that brand of cheese. 

To weigh things like sauce, pop the bottle on the scale and weigh it. Then, portion it out and weigh the bottle again. Minus the second number from the first number and you have your weight.

Take photos and measurements.

Don’t just rely on the scale for tracking your weight loss results. Everything from how we’re holding water to a female’s menstrual cycle can make us fluctuate, even by a couple of kilograms. 

Take some photos of yourself in clothing where you can see your body (such as underwear). Hold up your arms. Shoot from the back, side, front. In a month’s time, do it again wearing exactly what you were and in the same positions. 

Taking measurements with a tape measure of different parts of both arms, legs, chest, neck, waist, hips, etc. will also be a big indicator of your results. The scale may of shown only 200g difference but your measurements will show 3cm from one leg, etc. 

If you do use scales as one method, weigh yourself at the beginning of the day, after you’ve been to the toilet.

Remember, life is still happening.

Staying focused when you’re on a weight loss journey is important, but you don’t want it to consume your life. Even when you’re staying on track, you can still have dinner with family and friends, go out and have fun. 

Unless you’re under medical supervision, are a professional athlete, fitness model or similar, you most likely won’t stick to your plan every single second of every single day. There will be birthdays, weddings, flus, days where you’re just tired and need that cupcake. Your mental health matters.

Disclaimer: This article and its contents are for general informational purposes only. Any changes to diet or exercise routine should be discussed with a professional and/or a GP. Localsearch nor the author are responsible for any misuse of the information in this article. 

Feature image source: Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

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      Sarah Russo

      UX Content Writer

      Sarah Russo is a UX Content Writer at Localsearch with a decade of experience in traditional and digital marketing. She has written for and assisted in the social media and marketing strategies for many different industries, including real estate, medical, health and fitness, trades and beauty. When she isn’t nose deep in data, SEO research or her content strategy, Sarah is a gym junkie, foodie and gamer with a brain full of random facts that come in handy far more often than you would think. As a digital marketing all-rounder and lifestyle specialist, her articles provide insight into marketing, advertising and branding for small businesses on the Localsearch Business Blog, as well as some handy lifestyle tips on the Localsearch Blog.