Bike exercise

5 reasons why bike exercise is good for you (+ bike exercises)

When was the last time you got on a bike? Was it when you were younger? When you were on holiday? Or was it last week?

We’re all encouraged by the NHS to do regular exercise, at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, and this includes bike exercise.1

It may be that you’ve already got a bike sitting in your garage or shed that you haven’t used in a while, or it could be that you’ve been toying with the idea of buying a bike for a bit. Either way, the benefits of bicycle exercise are widespread, and the good news is, anybody and everybody can enjoy it.

And don’t forget, bike exercise doesn’t mean you literally have to cycle for miles on end either. You can still rack up the miles on a stationary bike at your gym or leisure centre or in your front room!

What does an exercise bike do for your body?

It can do a whole lot of good. To give you an idea, we’ve listed 5 bike exercise benefits below:
  1. Cardio health

Cycling is a cardiovascular exercise, it gets your heart rate going and your heart pumping. Over time, doing this type of exercise strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles.

Bicycle exercise can also improve the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body. And all of this can:

  • Support memory and brain function
  • Contribute to normal blood pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Contribute to normal blood sugar levels
  • Support the immune system
  • Help improve mood
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Generate more energy
  1. Weight loss

Bike exercise is widely linked to weight loss. Whether you choose to cycle for hours or a matter of minutes, cycling can help people lose weight and burn fat.

Just 30 minutes of cycling regularly can help people shed some pounds, especially if they really work hard with an interval workout.2 Cycling can use between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour, depending on the intensity at which you’re working and how much you weigh.3 If you’re jumping on a bike because you specifically want to lose weight, then you need to pedal faster. Higher-intensity rides burn more calories than lower-intensity rides. The type of bike you ride and the route you choose – if you aren’t on stationary bike - will impact how hard you work and how fast you go.4
  1. Body fat

Bicycle exercise is brilliant for burning fat, especially if you give yourself a really good workout by pumping those legs and getting your heart rate really racing.5

Working out like this is classed as high intensity exercise, which is widely linked to burning calories and building strength, which, in turn, can lead to fat loss.

One particular study found that indoor cycling, combined with a low calorie diet, was an effective way of reducing body weight and body fat. The participants cycled for 45 minutes three times a week, and they consumed 1,200 calories per day for 12 weeks.6 Read more: How to lose belly fat fast.
  1. Leg and lower body muscles

Biking is a great way of getting your legs and lower body muscles working, especially if you’re working out on a stationary bike and have the resistance cranked up high.7

Riding a stationary bike can help build strength in your legs and lower body, especially if you frequently use a higher resistance.

The constant pedalling action can help strengthen your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. At the same time, bicycle exercise also puts the muscles in your core, back and glutes to work.

  1. Interval training

Stationary biking is ideal for enabling you to take part in some interval training by doing short bursts of pedalling, followed by less rapid bursts of cycling. This type of training can help burn more calories in less time and improve your cardio fitness, as mentioned at the very start.8 If you’re using stationary biking, you can use different resistance levels, which enables you to exercise at low, medium or high intensities and use bike exercise for an intensive interval training workout. Linking back to Benefits 3 and 4, it’s possible to lose around two to five pounds a week with a consistent interval training routine.9

Top 3 bike exercises

These exercises are designed to be carried out on a stationary bike:10

Bike exercise 1: The 15-minute workout

  1. Start with a 5 minute warm-up, going at a fast speed with low resistance.
  2. For the next 5 minutes, cycle quickly, alternating between sitting and standing every 30 seconds.
  3. For the final push, ramp up the resistance and cycle as quickly as you can for 1 minute.
  4. Finish with a 4 minute warm-down, slowing bringing down the resistance until there’s none.

Bike exercise 2: The 30-minute workout

This involves working flat out in blocks of 20 seconds, followed by 10-second recovery sessions.
  1. Start with a 5 minute warm-up, going at a fast speed with low resistance.
  2. Cycle for 20 seconds with medium resistance, then lower the resistance for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times, then recover for 1 minute by cycling with low resistance.
  3. Repeat step 2 three more times.
  4. Warm down for 5 minutes by cycling slowly, removing the resistance gradually down to zero.

Bike exercise 3: The 45-minute workout

If you’d like to work your upper body too, you’ll need a pair of light dumbbells while also cycling.
  1. Start with a 5 minute warm-up, going at a fast speed with low resistance.
  2. Get out of the saddle and cycle standing for 5 minutes, at a medium speed and medium resistance.
  3. Switch to a light resistance and cycle as fast as you can for 2 minutes, then sit down on the saddle, and maintain the same pace and resistance for 3 minutes.
  4. Add a touch more resistance and repeat step 3.
  5. Cycle standing for 1 minute at a fast pace with high resistance.
  6. Move back to seated for 3 minutes at a fast pace, with light resistance.
  7. Go back to standing for 5 minutes at a medium pace with high resistance.
  8. Sit down for 2 minutes and cycle at a medium pace with light resistance. During this step, grab your dumbbells and perform dumbbell curls.
  9. Pick up the pace and cycle fast with light resistance for 5 minutes.
  10. Slowly add resistance while maintaining your pace for 4 minutes – you should be struggling to pedal by the end.
  11. Remove all resistance and warm down by slowing your pace over the course of 5 minutes.

How to get the most out of your bike exercise sessions

The main way of getting the best results is to work as hard as you possibly can, e.g. pedalling as fast as you can, for as long as you can (but also listening to your body in the meantime too, so that you don’t over-exert yourself).

Cycling aside, there are also some other things you can do:

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

To make sure you are getting the right amount of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to fuel your bike workouts and replenish your used energy. Endurance athletes need extra carbs to fuel their rides, fat to feel satiated and protein to support your muscles post-workout.11 (For more on eating the right combination of food when exercising read, ‘Your guide to sports nutrition.’)

Refuel properly

By eating carbohydrates and protein. Not eating afterwards won’t make you lose weight faster, it’ll potentially result in you becoming weak and sick. Take care of your body after bicycle exercise.12

Keep your body hydrated

Especially if you’re riding outdoors in the summer. But even if you’re indoors on a stationary bike, you still need to stay hydrated as you sweat. Continue to drink plenty of water afterwards too.13

Take supplements and vitamins

If you feel that you aren’t getting everything you need from our food (which shouldn’t be the case if you are planning your meals to make sure you are eating a healthy and balanced diet). Common supplements and vitamins used by cyclists include:14
  • Electrolytes and protein during and post-exercise
  • Calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D – for bone health, normal energy-yielding metabolism and normal muscle function

The beauty of bike exercise is that you can really make it your own. You can do it indoors or outdoors, going full pelt for 10 seconds or a leisurely pace for 10 minutes. You can cycle away in groups in classes, on your own along the canal or go for a family bike ride; the choice really is yours…

We’re sure you’re feeling more clued up about the advantages cycling can bring, but if there’s still a part of you that needs more convincing, check out this article, ‘How good is cycling for you?’ 

Shop Sports Nutrition

Last updated: 14 January 2021

ExerciseFitness