Can Indoor Stationary Cycling Help You Lose Weight?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on December 2, 2020 and last updated for accuracy on December 6, 2020

There are various weight loss measures people adopt to lose weight such as limiting energy intake from total sugar and fats, increasing vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, etc. in the diet. In addition to this, you can also follow various types of physical activities and exercises such as walking, running, jogging, weight training, yoga, swimming, cycling, etc. for your weight loss.

Cycling is a very popular and enjoyable form of exercise that can keep you fit and help marvelously to lose weight. Conscious cycling for weight loss is undertaken both through outdoor cycling as well as indoor stationary cycling.

Aside from using your rides to get in the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise, there are tons of other health benefits you get by spending more time in the saddle. 

Health Benefits of Cycling 

These 10 health benefits of cycling will make you happier, healthier, and more stoked to keep riding.

1. It Helps Build Strength

In order to improve your strength, plan on doing at least 150 minutes of cycling per week. You may see results after a few weeks of regular classes, but you’ll have to keep up with the classes in order to maintain the results.

2. It is Good for the Heart 

Indoor stationary cycling is a wonderful way to improve cardiovascular health. It’s similar to other forms of cardio, such as running, swimming, and elliptical training. It’s ideal for people who want a cardio workout without putting too much stress on their joints.

Evidence showed that female middle school students found that indoor stationary cycling was even better than bicycling in improving physical fitness (1).

3. It Improves Mental Health 

Evidence showed that exercise boosts brain power and helps to stave off Alzheimer’s in the elderly (2). Children are also more positively impacted by time on a bike and that exercise can help control issues like attention deficit disorder (3).

Cycling’s disease-fighting benefits also include warding off Parkinson’s Disease. A recent study found that vigorous exercise can lower the risk of PD in men (4). There still needs to be more research done for women.

The study suggests you need about 20 hours per week to see benefits, meaning that putting in just three hours of riding at 10 to 12 mph each week can help you reduce your risk. Plus, more exercise on top of that can only benefit you more.

4. It Speeds Up Recovery

Elderly patients with knee pain and osteoarthritis actually improved their condition when cycling was introduced to their routines, proving that as we get older, taking time to exercise, even just spinning a few minutes a day, can be hugely beneficial.

5. It Decreases Risks of Cancer 

Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and a conscientious diet, which includes lots of leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy grains can help lower your risk of cancer. Evidence showed that a higher cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with a lower risk of incident lung and colorectal cancer in men and women. There’s also a lower risk of all-cause mortality among those diagnosed with lung or colorectal cancer (5).

6. It Boosts Self-Esteem 

It’s no surprise that exercise in general, and cycling in particular, helps improve your self-esteem. Finish a really hard workout and your body will release a whole bunch of feel-great hormones that will make you feel like you can take over the world.

7. It Promotes Longevity

Cycling can actually increase a racer’s longevity. On average, former pros can live up to 81.5 years compared to the general population’s 73.5 years. That’s a whopping 17% increase!

For individuals who shift from car to bicycle, it was estimated that three to 14 months of life could be gained compared to the potential downsides of bike commuting. Another recent study showed that riding between just one and 60 minutes a week could cut the risk of early death by up to 23 percent (6).

8. It Can Help Prevent Stress

Everyone knows that exercise can help reduce stress, but a recent study confirmed that cycling is one of the top stress-busting activities (7). Riders enjoyed 21.6% fewer days of poor mental health compared to those who didn’t ride. This was only second to team sports and above other aerobic and gym activities. Simply making your rides group rides can help you reap the social benefits of a team sport and increase the amount of good days you have.

9. It Delays Aging 

Researchers found that high-intensity cycling and other high-intensity interval training can have major anti-aging benefits down to the cellular level. 

People who did high-intensity exercises had an increase in mitochondrial capacity (8). A decline in mitochondria can lead to physical decline, so the better your mitochondria can function, the more rejuvenated you will be, all the way down to a cellular level.

10. It Makes You Sleep Well

It probably isn’t rocket science that tiring yourself out on the bike will improve your sleep but now it’s been proven. Experts at the University of Georgia studied men and women aged 20 to 85 over a period of 35 years, and found that a drop in fitness of 2% for men and 4% for women resulted in sleep problems (9).

The steepest decline in cardiorespiratory fitness happens between ages 40 and 60. This is also when problems of sleep duration and quality are elevated.

Looking for causes behind the link, experts suggested it could be a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise that elevates the ability to sleep. 

Exercise also protects against weight gain with age, which is another cause of sleep dysfunction.

How Can Indoor Stationary Cycling Promote Weight Loss? 

Indoor stationary cycling classes are a great way to burn calories. Depending on the difficulty and duration of the class, you can burn 400 to 600 calories per class. You’ll have to attend classes three to six times per week to see weight loss results.

Evidence found that indoor stationary cycling and strength training were enough to have a positive effect on endurance and strength without changing dietary habits (10).

It’s still a good idea to follow a healthy diet that includes plenty of carbohydrates and protein. In a 2010 study, indoor stationary cycling coupled with a low-calorie diet was found to promote weight loss and raise HDL cholesterol levels (11).

Indoor stationary cycling is also a total-body workout that works all of your major muscle groups. Here are seven areas you work and how you use them while you’re cycling.

  • Core. Use your core to stabilize your body throughout the class, which helps to achieve overall balance, especially when you’re standing.
  • Upper body. Use your upper body to support yourself on the bike. Some classes incorporate upper-body exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands.
  • Back. Maintain a strong, stable spine throughout the class, which will help to strengthen and tone your back muscles.
  • Glutes. Feel your glutes working with each pump, especially when you stand up from your seat, do an incline, or increase the resistance.
  • Quadriceps. Your quadriceps will be the main muscles used as you pedal and climb hills, leading to strong, toned legs.
  • Hamstrings. Cycling helps to strengthen and loosen your hamstrings, which lift the pedal up with each cycle and stabilize your joints.
  • Lower legs. You’ll work your calves with each cycle, which helps to protect your ankles and feet while cycling and during everyday activities.

Tips to Lose More Weight with Stationary Cycling 

Indoor stationary cycling will help you preserve muscle mass, which is healthier for your body and better for your appearance. Plus, maintaining muscle will make your weight loss easier to sustain for the long haul.

However, to get the most out of an indoor stationary cycling routine, you’ll want to heed some basic rules of nutrition and training.

Eat Before and After Your Ride

Contrary to what you may have heard about the benefits of exercising on an empty stomach, it’s smart to provide your body with the energy it needs to ride hard and get maximal benefits from the workout. Even if you take an early morning class, eat something small 30 minutes before you ride. This could be a small banana, a slice of toast with jam, or a handful of whole-grain cereal.

Do the same an hour or two before afternoon or evening cycling sessions by having a combination of protein and carbs, perhaps a small apple with a tablespoon of almond butter or a few tablespoons of trail mix. 

Besides helping you fuel up for the workout, eating beforehand can help you burn extra calories, thanks to the thermic effect of food (12). Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the ride, too. Your body needs sufficient water intake to keep your metabolism humming and burning calories efficiently.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated throughout the day is very important. But did you also know that by drinking more water, you will be able to stay away from overeating ? And now that you are regularly cycling, you need water more than ever to replace all of the liquids that you have lost through sweating. 

Do watch out though! Do not mistake a sugary energy drink to get you properly hydrated. Instead, rely on your water bottle that you will carry around with you and an electrolyte drink that you can also sip on occasionally. An electrolyte drink contains all of the things that you need except for the harmful carbs.

Replenish Your Muscles Properly

Within an hour after your workout, consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein like 12 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk or a small handful of walnuts with a pear to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and provide amino acids for muscle repair and building (13). This will keep your muscles and your metabolism operating smoothly and prepare your body for your next workout.

Vary Pace and Difficulty

With most forms of exercise, interval training can pump up your metabolism more than exercising at a steady state and the same is true with indoor stationary cycling. Think of it as a way of tricking your body into burning calories faster.

By alternating bursts of harder pedaling, a faster cadence against heavier resistance with a more comfortable pace, you’ll burn more calories during the workout than you would have at a steady, moderate pace. Varying pace and exertion will also trigger greater exercise post oxygen consumption, which is the after-burn effect, causing you to continue to burn more calories for a few hours after cycling (14).

Switch Up Your Workouts

Do the same type of ride day after day, and your body will adapt to the activity and you won’t get as big a metabolic bang for your effort as you did initially. The solution is to regularly vary the types of rides you do. Alternate between endurance, strength, interval, and race-oriented rides and the intensity, to coax your body into burning calories faster during and after the workout.

Split Your Workouts

If you don’t have time for a 45-minute cycling class, do two 25-minute solo sessions and you’ll burn just as many calories between the two as you would with one longer class. You might even push yourself harder during a shorter session, torching more calories. Either way, you’ll reap the after-burn effect twice in a day instead of once, allowing you to burn more calories in 24 hours.

Don’t Give Yourself a Dietary Free Pass

Some people make the mistake of thinking that since indoor stationary cycling is such a high-intensity exercise, they can eat whatever they want and still lose weight. Even if you ride your heart out, you’ll burn at most 500 or 600 calories in 45 minutes. If you treat yourself to a piece of chocolate cake, you’ll consume 537 calories, essentially eliminating the calorie incineration you did in cycling (15).

Keep Moving

If you’re exhausted after a hardcore cycling session, don’t give yourself permission to become a sofa spud for the rest of the day. Do this and you’ll end up compromising the calorie-burning effects of your cycling workout and your progress toward your weight-loss goal. A better approach is to move more to lose more.

Avoid Alcohol 

Alcohol is one of the main factors that can contribute to unnecessary weight gain. It is usually a three-pronged attack, with highly calorific alcoholic drinks piling on empty calories.

The alcohol content can also alter your senses on the situation and how much you have actually drunk, which can lead to greater consumption of alcohol itself. It can also lead to binge eating which piles on additional calories as well.

All three scenarios are a recipe for easy weight gain.

Stress Less 

Stress and its associated low mood can affect weight; some people stop eating properly and lose weight, others turn to comfort eating and gain weight. Neither is ideal or healthy. Stress can also affect sleep levels. So controlling or managing your stress levels can have a beneficial effect on weight control.

Happily, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling is a great way of combating stress, decreasing anxiety, helping to reduce tension and boost your mood.

What’s more, getting outside into nature has also been shown to decrease stress levels and handily cycling is a predominantly outdoor form of exercise.

Safety Tips

Indoor stationary cycling is safer than riding a bike out on the road, but there are still safety concerns to consider:

  • You may develop muscle fatigue or injury from the repetitive motion or from using poor form.
  • You could fall off the bike or injure yourself if you don’t balance yourself correctly.

To stay safe with an indoor stationary cycling workout, keep these tips in mind:

  • Always position your body correctly and use proper form. If you’re unsure of the right position or correct form, ask a certified personal trainer for help.
  • Take a break to allow your body time to recover if you develop any pain or muscles aches from cycling.
  • Don’t exert yourself beyond your own limits, even when cycling in a group class. Don’t feel compelled to keep up with the group. It can be dangerous to push yourself too hard, especially if you’re new to exercising.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have issues with your balance, blood pressure, or heart health to make sure that stationary cycling is safe for you.

Key Takeaway 

Indoor stationary cycling makes it easier to exercise every day and help you meet your fitness goals in rain, shine, or whatever the weather throws at you. In addition to its many cardiovascular benefits, it can help you boost your muscle strength, lose weight, and burn body fat while being kind to your joints.

However, it is best to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you are a beginner, taking medications, or have any medical concerns.

References: 

(1) https://www.e-jer.org/journal/view.php?number=2013600401

(2) https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jsep/29/2/article-p239.xml

(3) https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/4/e1063.full#sec-8

(4) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2703134

(5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31056756/

(6) https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(18)32010-5/fulltext

(7) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30227-X/fulltext

(8) https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(17)30099-2

(9) http://www.prevention.com/fitness/sleep-mistake-youre-making?_ga=2.224493202.983511072.1496754194-2074595960.1496754194

(10) https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000002034

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20585735

(12) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2018.1552544?journalCode=uacn20

(13) https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-5

(14) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02640410600552064

(15) https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174934/nutrients

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