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An Introduction to Stationary Bikes

Discover This Fun and Easy Way to Exercise
  -- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer

Stationary bikes just aren’t what they used to be. They’re better. A low-impact exercise, stationary bikes don’t put stress on your joints, so they can be a great replacement for the treadmill when your knees are aching. Over the years, stationary bikes have seen many improvements. It’s a classic type of fitness equipment that has lasted for decades because it works.

It’s simple
Stationary bikes provide a great workout and are pretty simple to use. Just pedal. The motion involves little thought, so you can catch up on reading or television as you work out. It’s perfect for somebody with little time to devote to exercise and needs to multitask. Unlike a regular bike or treadmill, it doesn’t demand much balance or coordination, so there is little chance for falls. This makes it ideal for those carrying a little extra weight.

Better than ever
As technology has advanced, so have stationary bikes. Many come with a digital monitor that will track distance, time, calories burned and rotations per minute, so you’ll have a visible record of your workout. You can easily change resistance settings for more of a challenge, usually with a simple push of a button. Some models even incorporate an arm workout with push/pull handlebars. The seat is also shaped to be comfortable with padding. Just make sure that you’re not leaning over while you pedal; this can lead to lower back pain.

There are basically two different types of stationary bikes: recumbent and upright. On a recumbent, you sit lower to the ground with back support, with your legs extended out in front of you. While this relaxed position minimizes stress on the knees and lower back, it also tends to encourage a slower, less intense workout . When riding an upright bike, your body is positioned just as it would be on a regular bicycle. You pedal downward and move more freely, so it can be a more intense workout. The downside, though, is that it provides no support for your back.

Improve your bod
There are specific benefits from incorporating a stationary bike into your workouts. First, they provide a great cardio exercise, one of the keys to healthy living. The cardio will therefore help you burn a lot of calories, especially if you really push yourself. You’ll tone your legs, and for those bikes with handlebars, arms as well. Bikes are great for beginners, but also can be a challenge for someone in better shape.

Piece of cake
There are many ways to include a stationary bike as part of your usual workout routine. Start off at a low level of resistance and speed, no matter your fitness level. You need to warm-up before pushing your muscles too far. As you progress, you can increase the resistance from the bike, depending on what type of workout you want from it. Again, a lower level can be used as a warm-up. A mid-level of resistance provides aerobic training and will build your endurance. And, a high level of resistance is considered power training and will build strength. Look for a balance in your workouts to obtain the full benefits of a stationary bike.