If you're looking for a cardio workout that won't jar your joints but can still challenge your cardiovascular system and burn an impressive number of calories, consider using an exercise bike at home or in the gym. The motion is second nature for most people and, even if you've never pedaled a bike before, a stationary cycle is so stable that you'll pick it up very quickly with no worries about the falls that typically happen if you learn to bike outside.
Why Use a Stationary Bike
Exercise bikes build endurance in the muscles of your lower body, especially your quads and glutes. Because they get those large muscles working rhythmically for an extended period, exercise bikes are also an excellent choice for building cardiovascular fitness or working toward a fat-loss goal. If you weigh 185 pounds, you'll burn about 311 calories in 30 minutes of moderate cycling, or about 466 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous pedaling, Harvard Health Publications notes.
Adjusting the Bike
Adjust the seat height on an exercise bike just as you'd adjust the seat on a regular bike: Your knee should be slightly bent when the pedal on that side is in its lowest position or, for a recumbent bike, the farthest forward and down that it goes. On most bikes, you can unlock the seat by either pulling or unscrewing the locking bolt, then re-insert or tighten the bolt once you have the seat properly positioned.
One easy way of gauging that you're in the right position is to place your heel on the bike pedal instead of the ball of your foot. If your leg is comfortably straight with your heel on the pedal, it'll have just the right amount of bend when you put the ball of your foot on the pedal.
A Basic Bike Workout
Warm up with five to 10 minutes of gentle pedaling, then shift into a higher-intensity workout. Beginners with no exercise limitations should aim for at least 10 minutes of moderate-intensity pedaling, with a goal of working up to at least 30 minutes. For most people, a moderate intensity means breaking a sweat and being able to speak in complete sentence but not able to sing. Once you're done, cool down with another five to 10 minutes of gentle pedaling.
Progressing Over Time
Beginners should start with at least two bike workouts per week, then gradually lengthen the workouts or add more workouts as your fitness improves. A good beginner goal is to match the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's exercise guidelines for healthy adults: At least 150 minutes of moderate cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio per week.
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