You walk into a room amid a sea of water bottles, bright colored spandex and a buzzing crowd of excited participants. You place your towel down, adjust your bike, hop on and take a deep breath. You give the person on the bike next to you a knowing nod. You're in this together. You both know that you're going to walk out of the room in less than an hour a stronger, healthier version of yourself. For the next 45 minutes, you have nothing else going on. No meetings, no text messages, no one needing to be picked up. It's just you and a bike.
The room goes dark, the music starts. You start pedaling. Faster and faster. Your body becomes warm, a drop of sweat leaves your forehead. You feel your heart rate start to elevate. The tension in your mind starts to melt away.
You're present. You're in this. You're ready.
Here are 5 incredible benefits happening to your body while you pedal away:
ACSM recommends that healthy adults aged 18-65 years old should participate in aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days per week or vigorous intensity, aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes, 3 days per week.
A well-directed indoor cycling class will steadily keep your heart rate well within a likely vigorous range for approximately 45-60 minutes. Over time, continuous cardiovascular activity (including interval training often practiced in indoor cycling) can help lower your risk of coronary artery disease, can help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and can help lower your overall resting heart rate.
2. Lowered Stress Levels
You've probably heard of the elusive "runner's high." It's not uncommon to see many runners in indoor cycling classes. That's because you get the same rush in an indoor cycling class: a release of those happy-mood inducing neurotransmitters known as endorphins. Endorphins are known to create feelings of euphoria, lower your stress level and enhance the body's immune response.
3. Increased Muscular Endurance
This refers to the ability of a muscle to continually and repeatedly exert force over an extended period of time. In an indoor cycling class, this happens when you pedal against resistance, which can greatly increase the endurance of the muscles in the legs: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and even the calf muscles. Working out these muscles will also help to strengthen the surrounding bones, tendons and ligaments. Outside the indoor cycling room, this increased strength means you'll be able to perform your daily activities with greater ease. Walking a quarter mile to your car with shopping bags while talking on your cell phone will be a no-brainer for you!
4. Major Calorie Burn
If your fitness goals include weight and/or fat loss, you've come to the right place. According to spinning.com, individuals can burn anywhere between 400-600 calories per average 45-minute class. Since it takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat, just 5-8 indoor cycling classes, combined with a healthy diet can help you whittle down your body fat.
5. Low Impact
For such a high-intensity workout, indoor cycling is surprisingly low impact. Many people who have recently recovered from orthopedic injuries (and who have been cleared by their physician) turn to indoor cycling to help them get back on track. When done correctly, there is minimal impact on the hip, knee and ankle joints. When your bike is set up properly and you have appropriate footwear, you'll never have to worry about leaving an indoor cycling class with throbbing knee pain or stiffness in the hip joints. The circular motion allows for proper flexion and extension, while avoiding the pounding often brought on by other activities such as running or traditional aerobics classes.
Not convinced that indoor cycling may be for you? I challenge you to try just three classes. Get to class 10 minutes early and ask the instructor to help you set up your bike if you're unsure and let he or she know if you are recovering from any injuries so they can help you modify when necessary.
There are countless benefits of indoor cycling in addition to the ones listed above -- Keep an open mind and allow yourself to fully experience a great ride. Get ready to fly.
Erica Marken has been a Certified Spinning® Instructor for 14 years. She holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer. She is currently a personal trainer and a Spinning® and group exercise instructor in Boston, MA.