Are Stationary Bikes as Good as the Real Thing?

On Fridays, we like to talk about getting outside. Getting out in your neighborhood or going into the “great outdoors” boosts health in many ways. From a better mood to higher levels of vitamin D to better muscle strength, getting out helps our overall health.

But sometimes in the winter and spring, it can be hard to get outside. Many places in the country still have ice and snow. Others are muddy with soft ground that is hard to walk over. Recently we share information about how to walk outside in cold weather. And we wrote about how to get enough exercise while stuck inside.

Today, we are looking at bicycling instead of walking. Some people prefer to bike rather than walk. And, at this time of year, many roads are clearer than sidewalks that can be muddier and still have slick leaves from the fall that got trapped under snow. But, if it’s too cold to go outside, how good is a stationary bike compared to an actual bike?

Let’s start with the cons. A stationary bike can be incredibly expensive. However, by shopping around online, you can find one that fits your budget. Be sure to read reviews and know what you’re getting. You can also get low-cost gym memberships that will give you access to bikes that might otherwise be outside of your budget. A stationary bike will not give you an allover workout; bicycling requires balance and upper body and core strength when you need to stand on the pedals to pick up speed. You can buy stationary bikes with moving handlebars that give you an upper body work out, but they can be quite expensive. The other big downside is that cycling inside can be boring. There is no scenery to look at as you ride by, and there is no destination.

There are also big perks. If you use a stationary bike in your home or at a gym, you won’t be exposed to the elements. You won’t get rained on, have to deal with slick roads or get a sunburn. You also will be safer because you won’t be on roads with potholes that can cause accidents or drivers that might hit you. Additionally, they can be easier to use. You can adjust the resistance you want to pedal against with a touch of a button or turn of a knob instead of needing to know how to change gears on a bike. If you have balance issues, a stationary bike can be much safer. You don’t need to balance to keep the bike upright, so you are less likely to fall from a stationary bike than a real one. Riding a stationary bike is considered a low-impact form of exercise as it uses smooth movements to strengthen your body. That doesn’t mean you won’t work up a sweat just that you won’t have as much pressure on your joints. You don’t have to support your weight as you are sitting, which can help people with joints pain.  

In the end, it all comes down to a matter of preference. Any exercise is good exercise. Speak to your doctor when making changes to your healthy routine. Not all forms of exercise are suitable for everyone. Your own health needs may require a different sort of workout. Regardless of what you do, we hope everyone enjoys an active weekend!

Banner image: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bill Sanders, U.S. Navy, Wikimedia
March 06, 2020
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