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A recumbent exercise bike is one where your legs are out in front of you instead of under your body, as with upright exercise bikes. The seat is more of a bucket configuration rather than a saddle, giving more lower back support. You use your hips more when pedaling a recumbent bike, in contrast to the upright bike which relies on the thighs. Many people find recumbents more comfortable and they are often preferred by older and deconditioned exercisers, as well as those who like to read the newspaper while working out.
Exercise bikes are among the best investments you can make. An exercise bike is less expensive than some other pieces of aerobic equipment and takes up less space. You can make it your primary aerobic exercise or just jump on it for a few minutes when you have a little extra time. Those minutes on the bike burn calories and help improve your health.
If you're just starting out on an exercise bike, do just 10, or even five, minutes at a time. You will be limited at first by something called local muscular fatigue, that is, your legs get tired. This will get better as you use the bike more. Use it several times a day. As you get used to it, do longer sessions. Try to work up to doing a total of 45 minutes to an hour most days. This will get you in good cardio shape and burn a good number of calories. You can read or watch TV while you're riding if that makes it easier to stick with it.
If you want to use your exercise bike to increase your aerobic fitness, try doing intervals. After a warmup, go as fast as you can for 30 seconds, than slow way down for a minute and repeat. You can use other interval schemes as well. Start with 5 intervals and work up to 10 or 15. Cool down with some easy pedaling. Exercise bikes are great for intervals, though you can do them walking or running or on other equipment.
Some people think exercise bikes are a little dull. You can entertain yourself easily while riding an exercise bike, and this is one of their best features. Set it where you can watch TV while you ride. Listen to headphones or the radio, either music or books on tape are good. Read a book. Book racks are available. Or just keep changing your speed or the various settings and concentrate on the exercise.
Some people prefer recumbent exercise bike but if you're looking for a standard upright exercise bike, here are some things to consider. Exercise bikes are generally compact but some are smaller than others. You may prefer a smaller, lighter model if you have less space or want to be able to move it out of the way. The more expensive models tend to be quieter, so consider how important that is to you. Also, look for features. Most bikes have tension control, many have speedometers, odometers, or calorie displays, and some have preset programs. Look for the things you like.
You can actually get a better workout on a stationary exercise bike than on a road bike. You can go fast safely, and you don't have to slow down at corners and watch out for cars and pedestrians. You can control your speed for a more structured workout. There's no denying the pleasure and fitness benefits of a long bike ride, or biking for transportation. But if you only have a fairly short time for a workout, exercise bikes are the way to go.
Most people can ride exercise bikes. The main adjustment is the seat. Set it so your legs are almost straight at the bottom of the movement. At first, you may feel "local muscular fatigue," that is, your legs get tired. Your legs will get stronger and adapt the more you ride your exercise bike, so don't be discouraged. Use low tension and short exercise bouts at first. Bikes usually ride smoothest at a certain speed. When you find that, adjust the tension not the speed to make it harder unless you are doing speed work. Sit up straight so you don't tire your back, and don't wear loose pants that will catch the pedals.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|