Health Encyclopedia

Take a Lap with Indoor Cycling

When you cycle outdoors, weather, traffic, and rough terrain can conspire to foil your good intentions to work out.

That’s one reason people are taking their cycling workouts inside, where they do intense aerobic exercise with a roomful of people on stationary bikes, with music and an instructor’s motivation. In indoor cycling workouts (also known as spinning classes), participants ride stationary bicycles specially designed to mimic outdoor bikes.

But unlike road bikes, indoor bikes can be set to different levels of intensity by adjusting the resistance. People of different ages, sizes, and fitness levels can participate in the same class. Regular exercise, such as bicycling, helps to reduce the risk of medical illness, increase strength and endurance, and improve general health and quality of life.

However, before you enroll in a spin class, you need to make sure that it is right for you.

Take a ride

Indoor cycling classes usually last approximately 45 minutes. Some instructors speak through a speaker system or through headphones the participants wear during class.

The instructor often leads participants through a simulated bike ride, where they may encounter steep hills, straight-aways, and rolling country roads. They make adjustments on their cycles to correspond to the difficulty of the imagined ride. With heart-rate monitors that participants often wear during the workout, participants can gauge how hard they’re working.

Experts suggest starting a spinning class with a warm-up routine and ending with a cool-down segment that includes stretching exercises. An average 45-minute workout can burn anywhere from 350 to more than 600 calories, but the amount each individual burns varies, depending on the workout’s intensity.

Join a class

To coast into the indoor cycling experience, keep the following in mind:

  • Talk with the instructor. Ask about proper posture and learn how to adjust resistance and speed. If you are new to exercise, or have not exercised in a long time, consult your health care provider prior to starting an exercise program. If you experience any symptoms during exercise, including chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea, stop exercising immediately and contact your health care provider.

  • Check out the bike. Become familiar with the bicycle and have the instructor fit the bike to the proper height and angle for your height before class begins.

  • Be sure you’re at the right level. If you’re just starting out, or haven’t been to class in a while, sign up for a beginners’ class.

  • Pace yourself. Start at a reasonable pace and resistance level, and slow down or take breaks as you need to. You can always increase the intensity as the workout progresses.

  • Come prepared. Wear comfortable clothes, including padded bike shorts and low-top shoes with stiff midsoles, such as cross trainers or cycling shoes. Bring a water bottle and a small towel. Drink plenty of water before your workout and make sure to stay hydrated during and after the class.

  • Make a commitment. Don’t let initial discomforts scare you off. Try this activity for several weeks, rather than giving up too soon. Indoor cycling may provide just the boost your fitness program needs.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
  • Weisbart, Ed, MD