If this photo is what you visualize when you think of stationary bikes, think again!
Benefits of Stationary Biking
Most of us start the New Year determined to make an improvement in our physical fitness. Here in Iowa, winter makes bicycling outdoors pretty much impossible, but you can get in shape (and start your RAGBRAI training early) on a stationary bike instead. For those who have a condition that rules out high-impact exercise, or who just prefer biking to the treadmill or other indoor exercise, stationary bicycles can be a safe and effective alternative. They provide convenient, low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps you burn calories.
For resistance, stationary bicycles use friction belts or wheels, magnets, hydraulics or fans. Many bicycles are equipped with computers that will report workout data, such as your speed, resistance level, heart rate and calories burned.
The bike should have a wide base for stability. It should also have a protected and covered flywheel or fans. Make sure you know the weight limit for the machine before attempting to use it.
Adjust Your Position
One of the main reasons people stop cycling is due to discomfort. Proper positioning on a bicycle will provide for comfortable and enjoyable exercise. When you adjust your position on a bicycle, you are attempting to distribute your body weight evenly between your arms and your seat:
First, adjust the seat so that it is parallel to the floor. Pointing up will put pressure on your groin. Pointing down will put too much weight on your arms and shoulders.
Next, adjust the seat height so your knee is slightly bent when the pedal is at the bottom of the stroke. An additional seat height guideline is that your hips should not rock back and forth when you pedal. A seat that is too high will result in too much pressure on your groin and may cause soreness and/or numbness.
Finally, adjust the handlebars to allow for a comfortable forward-leaning position. Handlebars that are too high will put excessive pressure on your seat, while handlebars that are too low may result in lower back soreness and arm and shoulder fatigue. It will take several cycling sessions and some additional adjustments to find your perfect position.
Getting the Most out of Your Workout
You’re not going to get the maximum benefit from your stationary bike workout unless you elevate your heart rate by using appropriate resistance and pedaling at the proper speed. Be sure to spend some time with your doctor or trainer to figure out what your goals are and where your heart rate should safely be during your workout. You may be able to find a Spinning class at your local gym or recreation center, which is basically riding a stationary bike in a room with other participants and an instructor. The instructor will tell you when to speed up, slow down, and change positions to achieve the goals set forth for the class, such as increasing strength and improving cardiovascular health. If you use a fitness tracking device and/or app, make sure you understand how the device will track the workout or how to input the workout so you can keep track of each session. Tracking your workouts will help motivate you to continue and to improve upon past performance.
Benefits of Using a Stationary Bicycle
Stationary bikes are useful for those who want a complete aerobic workout. Pedaling at a moderate pace will increase your heart rate. Over time, bicycling will help improve how your heart functions by making it more efficient, increasing blood circulation and increasing lung capacity and endurance.
The programmable resistance feature available on many stationary bicycles is useful for toning and strengthening your leg and abdominal muscles. Increasing resistance during your workout means that these muscles will work harder and develop greater strength.