What are the Benefits of Recumbent Exercise Bikes?
Besides increasing cardiovascular health, there are many additional benefits to using a recumbent exercise bike, especially for strengthening an injury.
I am an avid road cyclist, and so are a few of my close friends. We spent years growing up out on our bikes and still go cycling together occasionally these days.
One of my friends, unlike me, doesn't spend any time in the gym. He enjoys cycling out on the road and doesn't usually feel the need to take his exercise inside. That was until he sustained an injury to his shoulder. After a couple of weeks of doing no exercise at all, he was going stir-crazy. He was unable to work and could feel himself getting less fit and losing his usual bright persona.
Initially, I had to force my friend to come to the gym with me, but when he did, the first thing we tried was the recumbent exercise bike. It had a big seat that could support my friend's back and shoulders, and he was still able to cycle. His mood was lifted instantaneously, and he continued to join me at the gym until he had recovered from his injury.
To my surprise, I also had a lot to gain from using the recumbent exercise bike.
The cardio benefits are great because you burn a lot of calories, and your metabolism continues to work hard for hours following a workout. I always tell people the importance of varying their routines, but I can be guilty of not following my advice.
After a couple of months of spending a reasonable amount of time on the recumbent exercise bike, I felt fitter, and I built up strength in my legs. By the end, I was able to cycle on a higher resistance for longer.
Now my friends have stopped coming to the gym, but I continue to use the recumbent exercise bike. It is an excellent choice of cardio exercise for me because I get to sit down, and I can entertain myself to stop myself from getting bored and coming off before I should.
If you're in the market for new in-home cycling fitness equipment, take a look at this complete buying guide on exercise bikes.
What is a Recumbent Exercise Bike?
A recumbent bike is similar to a regular exercise bike, but it has a reclined seat, which places the rider in a laid-back position with a supportive and large seat.
When it comes to cardio equipment, you have to try everything out to find what you prefer.
One of the most significant aspects when choosing a workout machine is whether you prefer to do cardio standing up or sitting down. Recumbent bikes are an excellent choice for seated workouts as they have excellent back support and a comfortable seat.
The recumbent bike is a great piece of fitness equipment that will promote muscle strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, and restore your range of motion. There is a wide range of benefits.
Recumbent Bike Benefits
The large seat gives you proper support. Weight is disturbed over a large area, which makes it more comfortable and also supports the buttocks and back. You can relax your upper body muscles and focus on your lower body and cardiovascular workout. The larger seat also reduces "saddle soreness," which can be experienced after working out on a smaller bike.
Great for Beginners
Recumbent bikes are especially beneficial for people who are new to exercise or suffering from specific injuries such as lower back pain, shoulder injuries, or cardiac restrictions. Some studies also show that this is a great exercise option for older adults with knee and hip pain.
For many people, recumbent bikes allow continued exercising in some form during physical recovery. The upper body could be adequately supported while focusing on cardio and leg strength.
If you have an injury, then you should always speak to a medical professional before doing any new exercise program.
While sitting back on a recumbent bike, you usually have the option to watch TV or read while exercising. This is great because it stops you from getting bored and might keep you on the bike for longer. I am guilty of getting bored during cardio, so I often use my time on the bike to watch the news.
However, don't let these distractions limit your workout, and don't get so engrossed in watching something that you don't work to the best of your ability. If you are just starting or recovering, then take it easy, but keep pushing yourself to do more each time.
Limited Pressure on Joints
Bikes, in general, tend to cause less pressure on your joints than other cardio equipment. However, because of its reclined body position and upper body support, recumbent bikes take even more pressure off. This reduces upper body tension and muscle fatigue.
An Effective Workout
Recumbent bikes might seem to be an easy option, but they can provide a serious workout. Experienced gym-goers have a lot to gain, too, and can increase the intensity of the workout by varying the pedaling speed, cycling backward, or increasing the resistance.
One study compared upright exercise bikes and recumbent bikes. They included both regular cyclists and non-cyclists in the survey. No difference was identified in muscle workload, but the recumbent bike produced more significant activity in two out of the four muscles that were studied. The tissues were the tibialis anterior and the semitendinosus.
Varying levels of speed, incline, and resistance make this an adaptable exercise that is great for beginners as well as experienced gym-goers.
Road bikes can be dependent on good weather; with recumbent bikes, you don't need to worry about whether or put on a helmet. This is also important for people who have sustained injuries. For those nursing an injury, riding a road bike may pose additional hazards, which can cause further muscle, ligament, or other bodily damage.
Any exercise has the power to relieve stress and make you feel happier, even reduce depression. This is especially true of cardio workouts; there is something that feels great about getting your heart racing and getting sweaty.
Various Muscle Groups Strengthening
Recumbent bikes are cardiovascular, which means that they strengthen your heart. But beyond this, they also work your lower body muscles. Peddling fast will get your heart racing, and building up resistance will give your legs a good workout.
Use progressive resistance and slow, controlled peddling to build leg endurance and strength.
The muscles recumbent bikes work is:
- Heart: Over time, regular aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, decrease resting heart rate, reduce high blood pressure, and improve lung capacity.
- Vastus medialis: A quadricep muscle that is located at the front of your thigh. It supports the stability of your patella (kneecap) and extends the leg from the knee.
- Rectus femoris: Another quadricep muscle that is responsible for flexing the hip. It also contributes to you raising your knee and flexing your thigh.
- Tibialis anterior: This muscle is located at the front of your shin; it enables you to flex your foot.
- Vastus lateralis: A muscle on the side of your upper thigh, extending the lower leg and allowing you to stand up from squatting.
- Semitendinosus: A hamstring muscle at the back of your thigh, supporting you to flex your knee and extend your hip.
- Biceps femoris: Located at the back of your thigh, this muscle is part of your hamstrings. A complex muscle that helps you to flex your knee and extend your hip as well as external and internal rotation.
- Medial gastrocnemius: A calf muscle that assists you to plantarflex the foot, such as when you stand on your tiptoes. It also flexes your leg at your knee joint.
- Gluteus maximus: This is the biggest buttocks muscle and is one of the strongest muscles in the body, allowing movement of your hip and thigh.
Recumbent exercise bikes are an excellent option for those that need to build or maintain strength. Although I was not suffering from any injury when using a recumbent bike, I also gained a lot from the exercise. I was using muscles that I rarely use and building new strength, and it allowed me to increase the amount of cardio I was doing -- all providing a fantastic boost to my fitness.
Recumbent bikes have potential benefits for both beginners and people who work out regularly. Recumbent bikes support your body while providing effective cardiovascular exercise. It is a versatile and safe exercise that is available to a wide range of people.
Regardless of what equipment you use, your workout is only as effective as how much effort you put in. Maximize physical and emotional rewards by bringing your best to every session and working out consistently. Find what works for you, and don't be afraid to try new things, and if you already work out a lot, be sure to vary your workout to see the best results.
Tony Lee, MS, RD
Tony Lee, RD, MS, is a highly qualified and accomplished Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Arizona State University. Tony brings over two decades of experience in dietetics, specializing in sports nutrition. Interests include studying all aspects of wellness, fitness, genetics, and peak health performance.