The benefits of exercise for older adults are well known. One option is a stationary bike, which is well suited for providing a low-impact, safe, indoor cardio workout.

Unfortunately, so many of those exercycles are just collecting dust in the basement. Maybe it’s time to consider indoor cycling again.

If you're not sure about heading to a closed space and exercising with others, there are so many options that you can do right in your own home, thanks to virtual exercise!

Technology has come a long way and your ride in your home can feel like a trek anywhere in the world! Being in a class can also provide motivation, encouragement, and accountability that is lacking when you work out alone.

Trained indoor cycling instructors teach you correct technique, and help you maximize your workout by leading you through endurance, strength, and interval training. Most classes are set to upbeat music, and some simulate actual geography or provide imaginary scenery.

The new indoor cycles that have evolved from the old stationary bikes are designed to feel more like riding a road bike.  They are also more adjustable to support better body mechanics and help prevent injury.

The benefits of spinning

Indoor cycling offers many benefits for older adults, whether you are already active or ready to try a new form of exercise.

  • Cycling classes can keep the rider’s heart rate elevated long enough to reap cardiovascular benefits such as lowering blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol, and improving lung function. Most indoor cycles have computers that can link to individual heart monitors to maximize the cardiovascular benefit.
  • Indoor cycling reduces the risk of falling off a road bike for older adults who may have balance or vertigo issues.
  • You don’t have to worry about inattentive motorists, bad weather, or uneven pavement.
  • For those with arthritis, back pain, or other orthopedic issues, indoor cycling offers a high-intensity workout with low to no impact on joints, tendons, and ligaments.
  • The resisted pedaling available on indoor cycles helps to build muscle endurance in the lower body, which can make activities of daily living easier.
  • A typical high-intensity indoor cycling class can burn 400 to 600 calories. This can be especially appealing to older adults who often find it difficult to burn calories and control their weight.
  • A trained indoor cycling teacher will encourage riders to control the resistance and cadence (pedal speed) to meet their own needs and limitations.
  • Regular aerobic exercise helps to reduce stress and improve mental health. This is important to many older adults who are experiencing changing lifestyles and roles as part of aging.

With all these benefits, it’s clear to see that an indoor cycling class could be great for many seniors. Once you learn the safety principles and indoor cycling techniques with an instructor, then you may be interested in interactive options that are available for streaming on your computer or TV for an in home workout.

What to expect in class

You might feel a little uncertain when trying indoor cycling for the first time. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Ensure that the instructor is certified in teaching indoor cycling classes. Some instructors even have special training in the needs of older adults.
  • Always arrive early to your first class so your instructor can help you set up your bike correctly and show you how to use the pedal clips, gears, and settings.
  • Drink plenty of water before the class and bring water and a towel with you. You’ll be working up a sweat.
  • Don’t be intimidated by experienced class participants. They will be too busy pedaling, breathing, and sweating to notice what you are doing. Indoor cycling instructors should be skilled at delivering a class that meets the needs of all the riders.

The colder weather is here, so now is a great time to give indoor cycling a try. It may improve your health and your enjoyment of life.

Remember, always consult with your doctor or health care practitioner before participating in any new physical activity or exercise program, especially if you have a medical or orthopedic condition.

For more information and other tips on healthy activities visit the Moving section of our Lifespan Living blog.

Kristin Matteson, MS, OT

Kristin Matteson, MS, OT, CHT

Kristin Matteson is an Occupational Therapist in the Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center at Newport Hospital.