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Cycling is an excellent low-impact cardiovascular workout that strengthens your heart, lungs, and lower body muscles. In addition, cycling is also effective for weight loss, even if you choose to cycle on a stationary bike in your own home or at the gym. Whether you’re at a beginner or advanced fitness level, you can modify your cycling workouts to suit your fitness goals and abilities while still getting in a great workout to reduce body fat.
In this article, you’ll learn:
The benefits of indoor cycling
How long you should ride a stationary bike for weight loss
Indoor cycling vs. walking on treadmill to lose weight
How to lose weight and belly fat with indoor cycling
Example workouts you can do on the stationary bike
Benefits of indoor cycling for weight loss
1) Burns calories
If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume. And there’s no better way to torch calories quickly than with an intense indoor cycling session. In fact, you can burn up to 600 calories in a 45-minute cycling session on a stationary bike. While the exact number of calories you burn depends on the intensity of your workout, body composition, weight, age, and other factors, this still makes indoor cycling an excellent workout option for burning calories quickly.
2) Lowers body fat percentage
3500 calories = 1 lb of body fat. This means that for every 3500 calories you burn on the stationary bike (assuming you don’t eat them back) you’ll lower your weight by 1 lb. Eventually, consistent fat loss will lead to an overall reduction in body fat percentage. For women aged 20-39, a healthy body fat percentage is between 21-32%, while for men of the same age, a healthy body fat percentage is 8-19%. Women aged 40 to 59 should aim for a 23-33% body fat percentage while men of the same age should aim for 11-21%.
Cycling on a stationary bike, when coupled with a healthy diet is the key to reducing body fat. In a 2010 study, participants cycled for 45 minutes three times per week and consumed 1,200 calories per day for 12 weeks. This led to a loss in body fat percentage and body mass.
3) Increases muscle mass and strength
The great thing about stationary bikes is the ability to increase the pedaling resistance to continue to challenge yourself and build strength. If weight loss is your primary goal, building strength and muscle mass should go hand in hand , as muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat. This means that increasing your muscle mass can help your body burn extra calories even when you’re at rest.
The pedaling action on a stationary bike can help strengthen your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. In order to really push yourself and build strength and muscle mass, here are a few extra tips:
Increase the resistance to a point where you can’t pedal faster than 60 revolutions per minute. This will fire up your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.
Add sprints to your workout. Try alternating between 30 second sprints, and 60 second recovery periods. This will force your legs to engage all their power for a short period of time.
Experiment with various positions, such as seated upright, leaning forward to engage your biceps and back, and hovering above the seat to engage your quads.
How long should you ride a stationary bike to lose weight?
To achieve weight loss, a calorie deficit is required. This means that you need to be consuming fewer calories than what your body expends.
One way of creating a calorie deficit is by eating less. For example, if your maintenance calories (the number of calories you need for maintaining current weight) is 2000 a day, then a sustainable caloric deficit might mean you can only consume around 1500-1700 calories in one day.
In order to speed up weight loss and promote healthy habits we recommend combining your caloric deficit with a cycling workout plan. Exercising burns calories and so when you work out, you’re contributing to the deficit that you need to lose weight.
The number of calories you can burn on a stationary bike depends on how long you ride for, how high your workout’s intensity is, and other factors as mentioned before, like your weight, age, fitness level, diet, and more. Of course, the higher the intensity of your training, the more calories you’ll burn. But this doesn’t mean you need to push yourself to your maximum limit at every workout. Even a moderate pace sustained over 45 minutes to an hour can be effective in burning calories.
For example, a 155 lb person who cycles at a moderate-intensity for 30 minutes can burn 260 calories, while a 125 lb person would burn about 211 calories, and a 185 lb person would burn 311 calories cycling for the same time and intensity.
Can you lose belly fat from riding a stationary bike?
Eventually, as you lose body fat from your body overall, you’ll lose belly fat as well. Losing belly fat is notoriously difficult, however, because fat cells in the belly have a high amount of alpha receptors, which slow the fat breakdown process. This is why you’ll usually see fat loss in other parts of your body first, and in your belly last. It’s also not possible to spot reduce or spot train, meaning to focus fat loss on only one part of your body. In order to lose that stubborn belly fat, you’ll need to lose fat from your whole body with a diet and workout regimen.
30 to 60 minutes of cycling 3 to 4 times a week along with a caloric deficit and high-protein diet is an effective way to reduce belly fat with time.
Is it better to walk or ride a stationary bike to lose weight?
The number of calories you burn with cycling and walking depends on your workout intensity. But overall, indoor cycling burns more calories in the same time period as walking, making it more effective for losing weight, as long as you’re cycling at a challenging tempo (at least 10 miles per hour or more).
A 190 lb person would burn about 863 calories cycling for 60 minutes at 15 miles per hour, while the same person walking for 60 minutes at 4 miles per hour would burn 345 calories.
A 150 lb person would burn 240 calories cycling for 30 minutes at 10-11.9 miles per hour, while the same person walking for 30 minutes at 3.5 miles per hour would burn 154 calories.
This means cycling burns more calories at the same intensity during the same time period. If you want to burn calories quickly, cycling may be the better option. As well, indoor cycling offers a host of health benefits like:
Cycling is a low impact workout and joint-friendly exercise, especially on the knees, as it’s not as weight-bearing as walking or running.
Cycling can help increase your VO2 Max (your maximum oxygen consumption during exercise).
Cycling can help build strong, toned legs, especially if you’re using a challenging resistance.
Cycling on a stationary bike indoors makes it easy to measure, track, and adjust the intensity of your workout, as opposed to outdoor cycling.
Sample exercise bike workouts for weight loss
Here are our favourite exercise bike workouts for you to try during your next indoor cycling session to help you along your weight loss journey:
1) Beginner-friendly aerobic workout
In this workout, you’ll start off with an easy to moderate 10 minute warmup. Then, you’ll cycle between a moderate, hard, and easy intensity in your main work block, repeated 3-5 times, and end the workout with a moderate to easy cool down.
10 minutes: Start off cycling at an easy pace, and increase the intensity to a moderate pace for the last 2-3 minutes
3 minutes: Moderate intensity cycling
2 minutes: Hard intensity cycling
1 minute: Easy intensity cycling
(Repeat this block 3-5 times)
13 minutes: Start at a moderate pace for 3 minutes and decrease to an easy pace for 10 minutes
2) Hill and speed intervals
In this workout, you’ll alternate between work and rest, going all-out in your working intervals. You’ll be adjusting speed and increased resistance to mimic hill climbs and increase your heart rate, burning a high amount of calories in a short period of time.
5 minutes: Pedal at an easy resistance and high cadence
10 minutes: Alternate between 30 seconds hard work and 30 seconds rest. Increase the resistance and speed for your working intervals and make sure you’re emptying your tank.
5 minutes: Recovery cycle at a moderate pace.
15 minutes: Alternate between a 3-minute “hill climb” (increase the resistance to a hard intensity) and a 2 minute easy recovery cycle for a total of 15 minutes.
8 minutes: Similar to the first interval, alternate between 30 seconds hard work and 30 seconds rest. Increase the resistance and speed for your working intervals.
5 minutes: Recovery cycle at an easy pace.
3) HIIT (High-intensity interval training)
HIIT workouts are effective for improving your body’s ability to use oxygen during exercise, burning calories quickly.
If you’re an intermediate to advanced cyclist, HIIT sessions like this are a great way to switch up your routine and blast fat in during a short session. If you’re a beginner, start off with 10 sets in Interval 2 and add 2 intervals to your workout each week until you can power through 20 total intervals.
Be sure to pace yourself through this workout so you don’t burn out early!
10 minutes: Cycle at an easy pace at 80-100 revolutions per minute
Interval 1: Alternate between 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest. For your working sets, increase your revolutions per minute to 105-120, then reduce to an easy recovery pace.
(Repeat this interval 4 times)
Interval 2: Alternate between 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest. For your working sets, increase the intensity to an all-out pace, giving your best effort. Revolutions per minute should be at 90-100.
(Repeat this interval 20 times)
10 minutes: Cycle at an easy pace to recover.
Want to burn even more calories while doing your treadmill workouts? Consider adding weighted exercises to interval training. This might look like squats for 1 minute before jumping back onto the tread, or upper body exercises like lateral raises with dumbbells, or a combination of upper and lower body weighted exercises. Consider adjustable dumbbells to add to your home gym equipment for these types of weighted exercises.
Start your weight loss journey at home with Ascend exercise bikes
Cycling on a stationary bike is no doubt an effective way to lose weight. If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, the gym or outdoor cycling can be daunting. That’s why Ascend’s collection of stationary bikes are perfect to start your weight loss journey in the comfort of your home. Ascend spin bikes are designed to mimic the riding position of outdoor bikes as you lean forward more, engaging your upper body during your workout as well. Choose from the Ascend SE Magnetic Spin Bike for intermediate or advanced riders or Ascend SE Spin Bike for the everyday cardio enthusiast. To increase your comfort during your ride and maximize your workout, consider adding padded cycling underwear to your wardrobe to wear under your bike shorts.