The exercise bike is a very popular way of getting your workout checked off for the day. Most of the exercise bikes provide different exercise programs that include cardio, resistance training, weight loss training as well as the manual setting for beginners. Some newer models also include anaerobic exercise setting or high-intensity training. Thus, exercise bikes give users the flexibility to choose the desired work out session for the day, comfort to perform the work out any time of the day, as well as ability to perform the session in own homes. No worries about snow days or rainy days, one can still continue this important healthy habit and be proud of himself for doing it!
All the above-mentioned benefits sound good but the important thing is how to perform these exercises safely and effectively. And by that, I mean how to use those fancy exercise bikes effectively. I have been asked several times about some special settings on the exercise bike or what to do to gain a particular benefit. I also have seen the frustration in people where they are not gaining the desired benefits from their exercise routine, and think exercises don’t work. As expected, these people want to give up on exercises.
We all know that exercise is very important has many benefits. Research is now suggesting that exercise not only helps your body to be healthy but also benefits the brain to function properly. Exercise helps to prevent cognitive decline and keeps you “sharp”. So the question is how to gain all these benefits with an exercise bike. Here I want to discuss a few important settings one should look for while exercising on a bike.
Proper position on the bike:
It is important to be in an ergonomically proper position while using any bike. This can be a stationary bike or recumbent bike. It is important to be in a good position so that you don’t develop afterpains from a session. Now, one can have DOMS which is different. Rather, a person can develop neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain, etc from either improper positioning or improper adjustments of the bike.
Below are a few things you need to be careful to maintain proper positioning while using an exercise bike.
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Most of the bike provides maximum adjustment in the seat. This is mainly because of the height of different people and also to accommodate different body restrictions. So the first thing is seat should be at the height that your feet comfortably reach the pedals. The Seat should also be at the center so your arms can reach the handle with elbow slightly bent ( around 15 degrees of bent). If you are using a bike that also allows arm movement, you want to adjust your seat so that when arm stretched out it remains slightly bent (around 5 to 8 degrees). You don’t want a full extension of the arm as it can overstretch the elbow causing injury or pain.
Some bikes also allow the seat to be angled. Normally I will recommend sitting straight with no angle of the seat. If you want to concentrate on core muscles, you can angle it forward (so that you are sitting with anterior pelvic tilt). This position will work on core muscles but it will not be as effective as directly working on core muscle strengthening.
Normally, arm handle needs to be straight, and directly below the pedals. You should be able to reach the arm handle with no discomfort or stretch. If your bike gives an option of arm movement / pedaling the arms, I will recommend doing it. Working on arms as well as legs is a way to get full-body muscle work.
If you are only using one arm for medical reasons (for example, fracture on another arm), you can stabilize the other arm handle or lock it in position.
Depending on the muscles or joints you want to concentrate, you can change the width, as well as the length of the handlebar. For example, handlebar, farther from the body, will work on the elbow, shoulder as well as scapular muscles. While, closer armrest, works on more of forearm and shoulder muscles.
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The positioning of the Pedals:
The pedals should be right under your arms or armrests. You need to reach to the pedals comfortably when the legs are stretched out or when the pedals are at its lowest position while cycling. Also, you need to make sure that foot is in a neutral position while pedaling. In other words, you should avoid any dorsiflexion or plantarflexion while cycling.
So these are the most changeable things in the majority of the bikes. Below are a few things to remember to select an appropriate program to gain the desired results.
Majority of the bikes have a program that includes aerobic exercise or cardio workout. Based on ACSM guidelines, a person needs to work at 60 to 80 % of age-appropriate maximum heart rate for aerobic exercise. I discussed in detail how to measure heart rate maximum as well as how to count repetition maximum here.
Also, an exercise session can be 30 to 45 minutes with 150 minutes or more a week for cardio.
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Different exercise bikes have different names for resistance training. This includes fat burns, strengthening training, weight loss training for example. As per ACSM, resistance training should be above 70% of maximum heart rate to be effective.
It is interesting to note that research does not support resistance training or HIIT to general health (overall health) or brain health. Resistance training usually works on a very specific group of muscles and therefore do not improve general health.
High-Intensity Interval Training:
HIIT is very famous and a fairly new method of exercise training. Some exercise bikes do offer programs for this kind of training. A healthy person can perform this exercise training. The idea is a short duration, high-intensity training can burn more calories, and provide faster results. Again, this training is not for everyone to perform. A person needs to be healthy and should be experienced in basic exercise training. I will not be surprised if your specific bike does not provide this kind of training.