A recumbent bike is an indoor exercise bike that positions the legs out in front of the body rather than directly underneath the torso. This reclined riding position gives recumbent exercise bikes therapeutic and medical applications as well as standard use for at-home fitness. Whether you're looking for home fitness equipment that will help you lose weight and build strength or you're interested in rehabilitating an injury, a recumbent bike may fit your needs.
You can find recumbent fitness bikes in many stores with many more available online at various price points. The question is why you might want to buy one, and how it could help you reach your health or fitness goals. We developed this quick guide to help you understand how recumbent bikes work, what makes them different from upright bikes, and how to tell if recumbent is the right style of exercise bike for you.
Let’s start with a discussion of what makes a recumbent bike different from an upright bike. The position of the legs is just the beginning.
Recumbent Bike Vs. Upright Bike – What’s the Difference?
We’re already established that recumbent bikes allow you to stretch your legs out in front of your body rather than balancing with your legs under your torso. There are other significant differences to consider, including the following:
Is a Recumbent Exercise Bike Better than an Upright?
Recumbent bikes are better than upright bikes for some people, but not all. It’s important to match your bicycle style to your personal needs. Some factors to consider include:
Before you decide for or against a recumbent bike, consider the benefits of riding a recumbent-style bike. These benefits may seem more like limitations for some. If that’s the case for you, then perhaps you’re better suited to an upright indoor bike.
Recumbent Bike Benefits
Benefits of Recumbent Bikes for Seniors
There’s a reason recumbent bikes are heavily used by older adults. It comes down to some key recumbent bike benefits:
Are There Any Cons to Using a Recumbent Bike?
There are pros and cons for every piece of workout equipment. The recumbent bike is no different. While these potential cons may seem more like pros to some people, it’s important to understand the limitations of your indoor exercise bike.
Reduced Cardiovascular Impact
Many people need a recumbent bike to exercise or perform physical therapy safely, but these aren’t the best fitness bikes for everyone. For starters, they fall short in the cardiovascular fitness department. The more comfortable seating position relieves stress from the lower body and allows more muscles to relax throughout the workout. That has the side effect of working the heart a little less.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a recumbent bike if you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance or take care of yourself while experiencing heart problems. Just keep in mind that the workout isn’t as intense for the cardiovascular system as most upright bicycles.
You can overcome this downside by investing in a recumbent bike with moving arms. That creates more of a total body workout that will get the heart racing a bit more. Multiple levels of resistance can help you intensify the workout as well. Look for recumbent bikes with magnetic resistance that adjusts easily while you pedal. This resistance mechanism will make it easier to keep your intensity high while keeping the workout low impact.
Fewer Riding Options
Upright exercise bikes allow you to ride in multiple positions, just as you might outside on a road bike. You can sit down with your back straight, lean forward, or even stand up. Recumbent bikes often come with adjustable seat positions, but you can only ride them seated with your legs stretched out in front.
That makes your ride less of an endurance conditioning exercise than an upright or spin bike. A recumbent bike with arm exercisers can add some intensity but won’t alter the single sitting position.
You can expect a recumbent bike to take up a bit more space than an upright exercise bike. The stretched-out design makes them longer rather than taller. Many recumbent designs are also heavier and more difficult to move around, even if they do come with attached wheels.
Tips for Getting a Great Workout with a Recumbent Bike
If you decide that a recumbent bike is the right option for you, it’s important to know how to use it effectively. Indoor cycling is an amazing workout, even if you aren’t stressing your muscles and joints to the point of shaking and complete fatigue.
Start out with short rides. You can work your way up to harder and longer workouts as your physical condition improves. Even though the seat is easier to get on and off than the seat on a spin bike, have someone help you if there are any concerns about your mobility or stability. Once you know you’re stable and strong enough to mount and dismount, you can go without that help at times.
If you want to work your upper body and lower body equally, consider a recumbent bike with moving arms. A semi-recumbent exercise bike is the right pick if you want to increase your heart rate more without giving up the reclined seating position.
Finally, give yourself time to fall into a suitable workout routine. If you’re new to exercise or have some physical limitations, it can take time to see progress and build noticeable results. You may want to try a recumbent stepper or small, foldable upright bike if you notice that your stamina is higher and you want more of a challenge.
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