Are Exercise Bikes Effective for Weight Loss?

Exercise bikes provide low impact workouts that are highly effective for weight loss. You can find these stationary bikes in most gyms and are often the first piece of gym equipment people purchase for their home. There are recumbent exercise bikes that are closer to the floor, stationary, folding bikes, and spin cycles.

are exercise bikes effective for weight loss
Losing Weight with exercise bike for sure

Depending on whether you exercise moderately or intensely, you can burn 250 – 400 calories with a 30-minute workout. (Even more with HIIT workouts and spin cycles)

Of course, you can see even more results by consuming fewer calories to go along with riding an exercise bike for losing weight.

Which Exercise Bikes are More Effective

Any one of these will make a great fitness machine for home. They all offer superior cardio exercise and provide plenty of physical activity and health benefits. However, some styles are just better than others when it comes to burning calories and fat.

Stationary bikes can be divided into several groups, and I have listed the 3 main styles below. You will see how they compare for dieting and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Knowing how the different styles compare and the advantages and disadvantages of each can help you know how much exercise you need to lose weight.

1. Upright

An upright style is what most people think of first because they are good for weight loss and great for home cardio workouts. They can deliver powerful results for burning calories, toning, strengthening, endurance levels, overall fitness, and cardio health.

You sit up high with the pedals aligned under your knees while riding an upright. The handlebars are at a comfortable distance from you and require you to use the upper body and core muscles to stay upright.

Man riding exercise bike for effective weight loss

Most quality upright exercise bikes have handlebars that move in sync with the pedals, giving you a high-efficiency workout.

Because your entire body is involved in this workout, the number of calories you burn is higher from pushing and pulling the handlebars as you pedal.

Some use a fan for air resistance which also aides in keeping you cool as you pedal. The faster you pedal the more resistance you meet, and the more calories you burn.

Check out my Schwinn Airdyne review post for more information.

With this device, you can work your arms and upper body alone or your legs and lower body alone by only using the pedals or handlebars. Use them both simultaneously for a great calorie burn to lose weight with a full-body workout.

2. Recumbent

Recumbent bikes put less strain on your back and joints than any other type, and are good for people with back problems. They provide the same health benefits as any of the other types but are the least efficient for losing weight. You can see from the image below that you don’t get to use your arms and upper body when exercising on this type of exercise equipment. However, they are much more comfortable which is a real advantage for many people.

The main difference is the seat and the location of the pedals and handlebars. Whereas an upright style uses a saddle-type bicycle seat, the recumbent has a chair type of seat.

Sitting in the chair allows you to sit closer to the floor with your feet out in front instead of below you.

Schwinn 230 Recumbent Exercise Bike Best Price

You’ll also find the handlebars stationary and at your side instead of in front of you. This design causes even less stress on your knees and hips but offers a great way to get plenty of physical activity into your life.

There’s little doubt that the recumbents provide a more comfortable exercise experience. However, it might come with some disadvantages?

However, all of this comfort leads to less of a workout than any of the other types of exercise machines. You will have great support but engage fewer muscle groups.

Most of the people I see on recumbents at the gym are merely taking a leisurely ride and the number of calories they use isn’t enough. Of course, you can turn up the intensity by pedaling faster and harder, but I think the comfort sort of distracts from a real workout?

Here’s my review of one of the best recumbent bikes.

3. Indoor Cycles

Indoor cycles, or spin cycles, are usually dominate in gyms these days. The reason is simple: They are the best at burning fat like nothing else.

That is, if you’re willing to put out a lot of energy and ride as hard and fast as you can?

Indoor cycles often resemble uprights, except that the handlebars are stationary and much farther forward. Indoor cycles are often referred to as spin bikes.

With the forward handlebars, you shift your body forward and can even stand up to pedal.

people at gym spin cycling for weight loss

This position of your body actually engages more muscles than either of the other classes, therefore causing some very serious calorie burn.

In fact, indoor cycles, or spin bikes, are the most efficient.

4. Folding

Folding bikes may not be quite as effective as the other styles, but the health benefits are the same. However, if you don’t have a place you can permanently allocate for it, these are a good choice.

Exerpeutic folding exercise bike for an effective way to lose weight
Lose Weight on a Folding Exercise Bike

Any exercise bike at home requires a place to set it up for use. Even though some have wheels to move them from place to place, they still take up space. If you live in cramped quarters or don’t want a home gym — folding models are perfect.

They come equipped with the same features like heart rate monitors and LCD displays for calories burned, pedaling speed, and how far and how long you’ve ridden. They fold up fast and effortlessly and usually have small wheels in the stabilizers for moving them from place to place. They can easily be stored in a closet full of clothes or behind a piece of furniture.

Read this review of one of the best folding bikes and see all the benefits.

5. Under Desk Exercise Bikes

Do you work at a desk all day? If so you may want to check out this post about the best under desk exercise equipment. Not only will slowly pedaling on a mini-bike keep you from cutting your life short at a desk — you can lose weight at work.

They are certainly not as effective for weight loss as an upright model, but they do work. They are basically a short pedal machine that fits underneath your desk. If you try to get an 8-hour workout, you won’t be able to go to work for a few days. That’s not the purpose, though.

They are best used by slowly and unconsciously pedaling along as you work at your computer. They will help with digestion, blood pressure, losing pounds, and staying flexible. If you work in an office environment, check out this post to learn why under desk exercise is vital to your health.

Beginner Stationary BikeWorkout Plan for Weight Loss

Like any workout, there are a lot of ways to go about it. If you’re new to exercising on a stationary bike you want to work into it slowly. The same as any workout plan, if you start wide open you will soon have sore muscles and quit before your body weight changes.

You will get the best results with riding every other day and the harder you work, the more calories you burn and you’ll feel good. How to get more out of your workout depends on the type of bike you’re using. Some allow you to up the resistance level while others require you to pedal faster to burn fat.

Beginner Workout

Even though I call this the beginner plan, for most healthy weight loss goals this plan works fine.

  • Start out at a very comfortable pace for about 5 minutes. Because you never want to start any workout wide open without first warming up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, this first 5 minutes gives your body a chance to warm up.
  • After the warm-up, increase the speed or resistance until you know you are working harder, but not as hard as you know you could. I do this for about 5 minutes a faster pace that still allows me to breathe freely and carry on a conversation.
  • Now increase the speed or resistance until you know your heart rate is rising and you are breathing a little harder. If this is your first ride, keep it up for about 10 minutes and quit. That gives you a 20-minute workout without overdoing it and being sore tomorrow.
  • I find that after about 10 minutes of warming up and getting into the flow, I kick it up to just below an all-out run for another 20-35 minutes. This gives me a good workout and calorie burn lasting from 30-45 minutes.

To lose weight you need to burn calories, and exercise bikes do that relentlessly when you are exerting yourself. Like any workout, the results will equal your effort and dedication.

Use this calculator to see how many calories you can expect to burn with your workout.

Interval Training for Extremely Effective Workouts

HIIT is the best form of exercise I know of for losing pounds fast.

Here are a few posts describing the effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training:

HIIT is all about short intervals of your maximum exertion followed by short intervals of rest, and doing this for about 15 minutes.

Interval training burn ridiculous amount of calories in a very short time while you pedal, but it keeps your body burning calories for hours afterwards.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Long Should I Ride an Exercise Bike to Lose Weight?

The key is awareness of your fitness level before you start. Having your own bike at home is great for burning calories, but you can pedal too much. Especially in the beginning.

Start your workouts slow for best results, and work up to riding 3 times a week for 30 -45 minutes. Unless you’re using High-Intensity Interval Training, which takes far less time and burns more calories.

It’s easy to be overzealous and train too hard, especially when first starting out. Riding too long or too often can lead to:

  • Sore muscles, joints, and injuries
  • Your body to hold excess weight instead of losing it
  • Losing your motivation to continue exercising

These machines make it easy to regulate the intensity and time of each workout.

In fact, many now come equipped with heart rate monitors and calorie counters. This makes it easy to stay in your perfect heart rate zone while visually seeing how many calories you burn.

So, take it easy at first and work up slowly to your peak performance you’ll lose weight and build strength.

2. Are Exercise Bikes Bad for My Knees?

Indoor cycling is one of the best ways to get your exercise and stay fit with no damage to your knees.

In fact, exercise bikes are always a part of rehab programs. Cycling to lose weight is much easier on your knees than walking, running, or using a treadmill.

They are considered a low impact workout and provides a great for improving both stability and range of motion in your knees.

Tips for Exercising with bad knees

  • Don’t overtrain, especially when you start your exercise program
  • Instead of jumping and pedaling, warm up your knees by walking around a little.
  • Try different seat positions. Find the perfect settings for up and down, and don’t hunch over the handlebars. Slide forward and backward on the seat to keep your knees over your ankles when riding.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees on the downstroke.
  • Knee Sleeves add warmth, stability, and support to knees.
  • When it comes to losing weight, you never want to depend on only one exercise routine.

Walking is also good for knees with arthritis, so include walking and some form of strength training like weights. Alternating days keeps you active and your metabolism stoked all the time, promoting calorie burn constantly.

3. Which Exercise Bike is Best for Weight Loss?

There is a vast variety of brands, types, and models, and most of the more expensive models come with a variety of features.

I think the least effective types are the recumbents and folding, and under-desk models. Even though they both provide excellent benefits when it comes to cardio, you miss the full-body workout of other types.

The best, in my opinion, will have movable handlebars that are part of the exertion action or spin cycles. Spin cycles take tons of energy and bikes with handlebars that connect to the pedals burn a lot of calories too.

Spin cycles burn extreme amounts of calories when you are in an extreme workout. However, I prefer an upright bike because it always gets both my upper and lower body involved in the exercise.

When it comes to what brand is better, I always chose Schwinn simply because they make quality products.

Summary

There are two camps of believers when it comes to losing weight: Those who rely on consuming fewer calories and those who rely on exercise. And then there’s the common-sense approach that includes both.

You’ll lose weight without exercise by merely cutting your caloric intake by a minimum of 500 calories a day. However, when you exercise for 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week, you turn up your metabolism for more effective weight loss. After every workout, your metabolism will stay fired up for hours afterward, and this is the key to losing that excess fat as fast as possible.

Losing weight always means balancing the calories you eat with the calories you burn. Because exercise bikes are effective for weight loss, last for years with little or no maintenance, they are one of the most sought after pieces for the home gym.

 

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