Fitness Articles

An Introduction to Stationary Bikes

Discover This Fun and Easy Way to Exercise


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 or spinning class 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.

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Member Comments

  • Thank you for sharing another great article! ??
  • I used to go to the gym several times a week but it has closed and the new one is not affordable. Meanwhile, my physical therapist recommended a stationary bike. I have hip and spine arthritis and I am concerned about which would be better: upright or recumbent? I know there are some opinions out there, don't be afraid to share them :). Thanks :)
  • My physician recommended a bike for my arthritis, so I got a recumbent one. But I just hate it! It is so boring and I can barely stay on for five minutes without going stir crazy. I would much rather walk five or six miles on the treadmill than sit on that thing for five minutes.
  • My stationary is the go-to basis for everything else I do. Bad hip, I can't walk a mile but I can bike 50.
  • I do love my bike, especially in the winter time.
  • I ride the bike st the gym everyday for 30 minutes and I really enjoy it.
  • I am looking at a elleptical recumbent bike combo..The exercise bike I have finally gave up the ghost.. I'm hoping when I go look at the combo it will work for me..Like the idea of 2 pcs of exercise equipment in one..not only to save money but I don't have a lot of space to fit it in.. thanks for all the input I have read here..
  • The Expresso bikes have a video game that allows you to pedal through a virtual landscape avoiding obstacles and collecting prizes. There are hills so you are doing an interval training routine, and getting a higher score motivates you to go as fast as you can. We no longer have our gym membership, but the Expresso bikes are probably what I miss most. (They were often out of order, so I might be missing them even if we had kept our membership!)
    I have had recent left knee surgery and right knee surgery in 2009 and I love the recumbent bike. I enjoy reading while on the bike. I do not use any added resistance - it is easier on my knees to just pedal and i love it. I used to have one at home but i wore the belt off it; so i am back at using one at the gym!!
  • The recumbent bike is a wonderful invention! With both back and knee issues, I find it is kind to my limitations. Also, the biking does help to strengthen my knees, so it's "free" physical therapy!
  • Sometimes I use the stationary bike as an alternative to interval training on the treadmill. So it's really helpful if you use the heart rate monitor (if there is one or get a HR watch). I use the noexcusesworkouts program and work on reaching the HR goals. Wow, it can be an intense workout. I tend to use the recumbent bike as the other ones at the gym tend to lose the seat height and it hurts to be bumped down.
  • I'd used a stationary bike for a long time but had felt that I got a better workout on the treadmill. Now, however, I may have to go back to the bike for a while to cut back on impact. It will be interesting to see how I respond to it after more than a year away from it....

    I do like the fact that I can read while riding - it helps me keep up with my professional journals, which I really can't do on the treadmill!
  • I enjoy the Expresso bikes. They have a computer screen where you can watch yourself complete one of their many courses--mountain
    s, seaside, you name it. If you don't want to do that, you can tune in the TV instead.
  • My husband bought my Proform recumbent bike from an ad in the paper. The woman said she bought it from Sears for $300 and my husband offered her $80 just to take it off her hands. I am thankful for my husband and his support. He even rides the bike when the weather is bad and he is unable to run outside. I ride my bike at least three to four times a week and average 15 miles a week. It has IFit capabilities and four different coaching programs. I really get a great workout without straining my knees or my back!

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.