8 Can't-Beat Benefits of Indoor Cycling

8 Can't-Beat Benefits of Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling’s benefits are numerous; as a workout, it’s convenient, efficient, effective, and as social as you want it to be. You can do it in a class of one or dozens, depending on your mood. And those are just a few of its physical and mental benefits.

“I’m biased toward indoor cycling as a truly fun exercise that is also a great way to lose weight,” says Jake Maulin, CPT, a certified personal trainer and cycling instructor in Naples, Florida. “Indoor cycling is a high-powered, blood-pumping cardio workout that can accelerate weight loss without stressing your joints the way running or other higher-impact workouts can.”

Here’s what science and the experts say about the advantages of indoor cycling.

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8 Benefits of Indoor Cycling

6 benefits indoor cycling

Looking for your reason to start? These six benefits range from weight loss to improved mood.

1. May help with weight loss

“Cycling is great for weight maintenance and losing weight,” says Melanie Melillo, fitness programming specialist at Openfit. “Adding resistance to the flywheel can help build muscle mass. When you have more muscle in your body, you have a more active metabolism. You’re going to burn more calories at rest.”

In one study involving sedentary overweight women who undertook a 12-week indoor cycling course (with three sessions a week), participants lost weight and body fat while increasing their lean body mass — “without any restriction on food consumption.” Additionally, the women saw a reduction in their resting heart rate, a sign of increased cardiovascular fitness.

And a 2019 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that indoor cycling resulted in greater weight loss and body fat loss compared to other fitness classes like Zumba and Body Pump, a combination of classes, and a sedentary control group.

2. May improve cardiovascular fitness

“Primarily, cycling is a cardiovascular exercise, so that means you’re going to burn calories, strengthen your heart, and strengthen your lungs when you do it,” says Melillo.

A 2019 review of studies on the health benefits of indoor cycling found that it may improve blood pressure, lipid profile (the level of fats in the blood, like cholesterol and triglycerides), and body composition — all things that may help you have a healthier heart.

And according to a 2020 randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, indoor cycling may reduce arterial stiffness — a potential contributor to hypertension and cardiovascular disease — after just one session, making it a good activity to combat the effects of the sedentary winter months.

3. May increase VO2 max

The 2019 review of studies on indoor cycling found that it might improve aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to use as much oxygen as it can, as efficiently as possible. It’s one marker of cardiorespiratory fitness.

VO2 max may not mean much to the casual cyclist, but it’s a strong prerequisite for cycling performance and is a metric that many competitive athletes obsess over,” says Maulin. “While genetics impose a ceiling on how high a rider’s aerobic capacity can get, training can positively impact your VO2.”

4. May increase muscle strength and tone

Cycling is great for the lower body, because you can resistance-load,” says Melillo. “It’s sort of adding plates to a leg press: As you add resistance to the flywheel on your bike, you’re making it harder for your legs to pedal, so you can build muscle and make yourself stronger.”

There are aesthetic advantages, too. “The resistance element of cycling can build more defined glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves, giving riders a toned and healthy appearance,” says Maulin.

5. Is low-impact

Indoor cycling is easier on the muscles and joints than some other types of cardio. “Cycling is lower-impact than other forms of aerobic exercise, like running or high-intensity classes, because you’re not actually leaving the ground,” says Melillo. “You’re staying connected to your pedals throughout the entire pedal stroke.”

6. May help improve mood

The runner’s high is no myth — you know that a good cardio workout can make you feel great. And at least one study suggests that indoor cycling may help improve your mood. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Mental Health found that indoor cycling sessions increased participants’ positive affect (e.g., optimism, energy, and joy) and decreased negative affect, whether the sessions were self-directed or led by an instructor.

“The physical exertion is a catharsis for releasing pent-up emotions and can clear your head so you can act more decisively and be the best version of yourself,” says Maulin.

We can’t promise you’ll have a psychological breakthrough on the bike, but the science is pretty clear that exercise can really improve your mental health.

7. Can help relieve stress

Not only may those feel-good endorphins help to improve your mood, but they may also help to decrease stress.

“Exercising in general helps reduce stress,” says John Gardner, a NASM-certified personal trainer.

And heading outdoors for a bike ride can have extra benefits for your mental wellbeing. “Taking in fresh air and feasting your eyes to the glories of nature, it can be an excellent way to reduce stress and exchange any negative energy you have with feel-good brain chemicals,” Gardner adds.

8. May aid cognition

2020 study found a connection between daily exercise and creativity. “If you’re stuck on a problem at work, or are feeling low due to shortened winter days, maybe all you need is to take a bike ride during your lunch break,” Craig suggests.

Research suggests regular exercise may also have a positive effect on other cognitive functions such as memory and attention.


What Muscles Do You Use For Cycling?

what muscles do you use for cycling -- indoor cycling benefits

According to Melillo, cycling mainly trains the following muscles:

“It’s primarily those big leg muscles that are working,” she says. “However, you’re definitely working your core as you’re seated on the saddle. The more you focus on your form — with a nice long neutral spine, your chest lifted — the more core work you’ll get.”

Secondarily, the triceps and shoulders stay engaged as you rest your upper body on the handlebars. (Just don’t lean!)


How Can Cycling Help You Lose Weight

how can it help you lose weight -- indoor cycling benefits

Indoor cycling burns roughly as many calories as outdoor cycling. The average 150-pound person will burn 417 calories in 50 minutes of medium-effort indoor cycling (150 watts). At 200 watts, they’ll burn 1,042 calories during that time.

Indoor cycling can help you lose weight because it makes interval training easy. Studies suggest interval workouts can speed weight loss compared to steady-state training.

“Stationary bikes allow for varied resistance levels, so you can exercise at low, medium, or high intensities, which makes indoor cycling ideal for interval training,” says Maulin. “Interval training can help you burn more calories in less time by alternating short bursts of intense exercise with longer intervals of less intense exercise. As you drive your heart rate up and down while allowing for periods of recovery, you’re able to reap the benefits of your workout hours after you finish.”


The Benefits of Online Cycling Classes

benefits of online cycling class -- indoor cycling benefits

The community of an in-person cycling class can be fun and motivating. But taking online cycling classes has serious advantages too. The convenience can help you be more consistent with your workouts, says Melillo — no worrying about rushing to the gym or cycling studio in time for class, no need to deal with parking or child care.

With MYX+Openfit, on-demand classes allow you to cater your ride to your schedule and needs. Pick the time, intensity, and length and get pushed to new limits with our motivating group of trainers.

No matter your objective, any exercise will be more effective the more often you do it. If lack of time is holding you back from your fitness goals, try online cycling classes. “They help with your ability to schedule — and stick with the schedule,” she says.

And unlike outdoor cycling, the weather will never give you an automatic out. “If you say, ‘Tomorrow morning, I’m going to cycle outside,’ you wake up and it’s rainy out, you can’t do it,” says Melillo. “If you’re inside, taking an on-demand class in your house, you can keep that appointment. No matter what.”