Fitness Basics: The Exercise Bike Is Back
It's time for another look at an old fitness favorite.
Remember the exercise bike? It was popular at gyms and for home use long
before many of today's glitzy, high-tech exercise gadgets were invented. Maybe
you even have one, stashed in the attic and serving as a rack for out-of-season
But if you're ready to get serious about getting fit, it may be time to dust
off your trusty (if not rusty) steed.
When you're starting an exercise program, the key is finding something you
enjoy and that's easy to do. That's what makes the stationary bike a great
choice, particularly for the novice exerciser or someone with back, knee, or
joint problems that make running or walking more difficult.
"A stationary bike is very easy on the joints," says Kim Eskola, MS,
assistant fitness director at Little Rock Athletic Club in Little Rock, Ark.
For a beginner, she says, "it's also easy to use a bike," compared
with, for example, a treadmill or elliptical machine.
Further, if you're a fair-weather exerciser who lets heat, cold, or rain
inhibit your workout, the stationary bike gives you fewer excuses not to
exercise. "Because it's indoors, you don't have to worry about inclement
weather," says exercise physiologist Kelli Calabrese.
Another point in its favor: If you don't belong to a gym, you can use one at
Stationary bike enthusiast Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, says there are many
advantages to having a bike in the house.
"I can do it watching television," says Magee, WebMD Weight Loss
Clinic's "Recipe Doctor." "I can do it at night, when it's dark,
when it's raining or cold. It's a great way to burn calories and fat stores,
and it's a good oxygen boost."
Though not a beginning exerciser herself, Magee says the stationary bike is
an excellent choice for those who are new to exercise.
"For many of my friends that are halfway motivated and are beginner
exercisers, I think it's a great place to start. You're working hard, but not
so hard that you can't be entertained at the same time."
Before You Buy a Bike
Before you buy a stationary bike, do your homework because the options can
be overwhelming. Some things to consider:
- Do you want an upright bike or a recumbent style (the type you pedal from a
- Do you need a small manual bike because you have limited space, or do you
have room for a programmable electronic one?
- Should you buy new or used?
- What do you want to spend?
First, decide what you will use the bike for -- as your main exercise
source, one of several aerobic activities, or just a rainy-day alternative.
Then, determine how much room you have to spare and what your budget
Next, do some research. Ask friends or trainers at your gym for their
recommendations. You may also want to check out Consumer Reports or other
impartial reviews. Check with local equipment retailers -- from department
stores to fitness suppliers -- about the kind of bike you should get, based on
your needs. (Keep in mind that electronic bikes with program modes offer more
workout variety but usually take up more space, require more maintenance, and
cost considerably more than their manual counterparts.)