Ever walk by the cycling room at a gym and wonder why anyone would want to ride a stationary bike inside when they could be outdoors feeling the breeze and enjoying the scenery? Well, just like biking outside has advantages, cycling indoors can be more of a fun, effective and intense workout — perhaps just what you need to shake up your workout routine and meet your goals.
"Spinning can help burn fat, build lean muscle and improve your cardiovascular system," says Stephanie Beck, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Chicago Athletic Clubs and a LES MILLS US trainer. But that's just the beginning. Check out these five reasons to get in the saddle, plus tips on how to have the best ride.
1. Your joints will thank you
"The best thing about spinning is that it's low-impact," Beck says. "You receive the same benefits you'd get from high-intensity interval training or cardio workouts but without putting as much pressure on your joints."
Ride-guide tip: The joint benefits won't matter, however, if you're uncomfortable. "Adjusting your seat to the right height should be your No. 1 priority," says Beck. "It will dictate your comfort level and how efficient you are with your legs." Check out this handy infographic, which shows you exactly how to set up your bike.
2. You'll want to push yourself to the max
"Working out in a group really inspires people to work harder than they would on their own," says Beck. Plus, instructors typically create killer upbeat play lists and coordinate intervals with the music, all of which drives you to keep pedaling and challenging yourself. Chicago Athletic Clubs even offers Spin classes with a live DJ to up the fun factor.
Ride-guide tip: It's healthy to push yourself, but don't be afraid to dial back the intensity if needed. "Group fitness classes can sometimes be intimidating," Beck says. "But it's important to take care of yourself." Grab water and take a short break to catch your breath or go easy during a sprint if you need to.
3. You can customize your workout
Spin classes are designed for everyone from beginners to the super-fit. "Each bike has a knob that allows you to manage your resistance," Beck explains. "Turning it up makes it harder, as if you're climbing a hill, and turning it down makes it a easier, as if you're biking on a flat road." So even as the instructor guides you, you're in control; if he or she says to add a full turn of the knob, it's OK if you're more comfortable only adding a half.
Ride-guide tip: Get to class 10 minutes early so you not only have time to set up your bike, but also can become comfortable with the resistance knob. "Find the instructor to let him or her know that you're new," Beck says. The instructor will help you get set up and answer any questions.
4. You'll torch major calories and improve your overall health
Spinning can burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories in a 45-minute session, depending on your level of intensity, Beck says. Plus, with your heart pumping during the entire session, you'll improve your cardiovascular health, which could prevent problems like heart disease.
Ride-guide tip: For the best workout, don't only push the pedals down, also use your thigh muscles to pull the pedals back up on the second half of the rotation, Beck says. (All Spin bikes have toe cages or clips so your feet are locked in.) Doing so works legs muscles most efficiently. Also keep your core engaged and arms and shoulders relaxed. If you become a regular Spinner, Beck recommends investing in cycling shoes, which keep your feet and body aligned, make you feel more in sync with the bike and give you more power.
5. You'll boost brainpower
Studies show cycling can help you think faster, remember more and feel happier. Researchers in the Netherlands, for example, found that cycling improves the integrity and density of white matter, which speeds neural connections. A regular cycling routine also boosts what's called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that regulates stress, mood and memory, reports another study by Taiwanese scientists.
Ride-guide tip: If you try a class and don't love it, test a few other instructors' classes to find one whose style (and playlist) you find motivating and fun. You'll then understand why some Spin classes are packed even when it's 70 degrees and sunny outside.
—Abigail Libers for Chicago Athletic Clubs