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Stationary Bikes – Still A Top Choice For Overall Fitness
In all the craze over new fangled fitness equipment, the exercise bike often gets overlooked. Stationary bikes have been around for many years, which can lead some people to think they are outdated or not as effective as newer types of equipment. But for many people, exercise bikes provide a fun, consistent, reasonable means of exercising, improving cardio functions, and losing weight.
Stationary exercise bikes provide all the benefits of riding a bicycle. They provide good cardio workouts, have much less impact on knees, hips and other joints than walking or running, and can be used at any time it’s convenient. Most stationary bikes have manual or computerized controls to allow you to adjust resistance and speed. Many also come with heart monitors and cardio workouts already programmed in. There is a huge selection of price and style, and stationary bikes tend to be the most affordable cardio exercise machine.
Plus, with a stationary bike, you don’t have to worry about traffic, dogs, or bad weather. You can exercise in the convenience of your own home and even watch television or read a book while you bike. Try doing that on the bike path at the park!
Types of Stationary Bikes
Standard, upright stationary bikes come in single or dual action models. Dual action bikes have handles or levers to work the upper body and have been shown to provide more effective cardio workouts, burn more calories, and also improve overall body tone more efficiently than single action bikes. Dual action bikes work well for those with hip or leg injuries who need to exercise but also need to go easy on their legs. The dual action allows the arms to work harder to operate the machine, thus requiring less work from the legs.
A recumbent bicycle, sometimes called a “bent,” is a type of stationary bike that is more laid back…literally. It places the body in a semi or fully reclining position, taking pressure off the back area. Some people feel the position is difficult to adapt to at first, but many who choose recumbent bikes say they are very easy and comfortable to ride. They usually come with a larger seat, which often means you will stay on the machine longer or not have discomfort later.
Because of the reclining position, a recumbent bike works the abdominal muscles more and also creates more hamstring action. The lower center of gravity makes for better balance as well. Doctors feel they are better for those with back problems or with cerebral palsy and related diseases. The recumbent bikes also bring your feet more closely in line with your heart, keeping blood pressure low and providing for a safer overall workout.
Popular Models & Prices
Most stationary bikes come with ways to assess your speed and distance. Economy models have a tachometer/odometer combination and a design that utilizes a flywheel to provide resistance. These models are not programmable and provide the least effective workout, but are at under $200 can be an inexpensive way for a beginner or someone on a tight budget to get some exercise. They can be purchased at many department stores.
Standard models usually come with more features such as a programmable consul that calculates heart rate or allows you to pick a heart rate and then adjust the resistance accordingly. These bikes may use flywheels, fan blades, or magnetic resistance, depending on the quality. Magnetic resistance is usually the best method as it operates more smoothly and is quieter. These models can range from $200 up to $1500 and provide the broadest range of selection for the average person. Some popular models include Tunturi F520 (recumbent), Vision Fitness R2000, and several models from Schwinn, the popular bike manufacturer.
More expensive stationary bikes often use magnetic resistance and typically need to be plugged in to an outlet. They come with all the bells and whistles, including extended warranties, more varied programming features, and comfort options such as built in fans. They typically cost over $1500. Lifecycle 5500HR and 5500RHR (recumbent) are popular choices among those who are serious about their workout or have a healthy budget.
Other popular manufacturers of exercise bikes include Nordic Track, Reebok, Weslo, Keys, Fitness Quest, and Edge.
Compared To Other Equipment
All types of stationary bikes provide a low impact workout that many feel is an advantage over treadmill exercise. The force on the knees, ankles, feet and other body parts that occurs with walking or running can cause swelling or discomfort in the joints. It can irritate old injuries or sometimes even produce new problems. A stationary bike provides non-weight bearing exercise that reduces impact on these areas.
In the health and fitness industries, and among customers, there is an extensive debate over which machines burn more calories and give a better cardio workout. There is evidence on both sides of the issue, but many people agree that a stationary bike should have dual action to optimize weight loss and heart health. The pumping of the arms has a significant impact of the effectiveness of any workout, and a treadmill is less effective as well if you hold onto the hand supports rather than letting your arms swing or pumping them in rhythm to your motion.
Elliptical trainers are another exercise option that provides a low impact workout, but many feel they do not provide the same cardio benefits. Rowing machines are boring, more difficult to use, and can be hard on the back. Other equipment has disadvantages as well, making stationary bikes a good choice for overall effectiveness and satisfaction. Consumer buying shows that exercise bikes continue to rank as a top choice for exercise and fitness training.
In the ever expanding world of health and fitness equipment, there have been some true advances as well as a bunch of gimmicks. A stationary bike is an old standard that has been a proven exercise tool for years, and that continues to improve and adapt through new technology. The overall effectiveness, ease of use and variety of designs and prices makes a stationary exercise bike an excellent choice for beginners and advanced enthusiasts alike.