We’ve written several articles on this subject, including the benefits of cycling for women and how exercising in the workplace can boost focus and productivity. In today’s post, we’re looking specifically at the benefits of indoor cycling classes, which continue to grow in popularity in gyms and studios and now in homes.
What is an indoor cycling class?
Indoor cycling classes are group sessions of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise performed on stationary bikes. Typically, the bikes are arranged in rows and face an instructor who leads the session, calling out encouragement and changing the tempo and resistance. Classes match the music’s BPM to the intensity set by the instructor. ISPO recommends a BPM between 120 and 150 for indoor cycling classes.
If you’re taking a class at a gym or studio, you’ll notice that the bikes look slightly different from other stationary bikes, like upright and recumbent. Firstly, indoor bikes have handlebars that are almost level with the saddle, forcing the rider to lean forward much like a road or track cyclist does. Indoor cycling bikes also have a flywheel. This is the weighted disc at the front of the bike. Heavier flywheels are harder to start moving, but once the rider has generated enough momentum, they help create a smoother riding experience which is better for indoor cycling classes because of the higher intensity and speed that riders can achieve. Indoor cycling classes can have a relatively basic set-up or can take place in a specifically designed studio which may make use of specific types of music and sophisticated lighting. Experiential exercise classes are becoming more popular in live cycling classes, creating more of a nightclub atmosphere. One example of this is STORM at Holme’s Place in Berlin. If it’s your first time attending a class, let the instructor know so they can help you adjust and use the bike before the class starts.
While taking a class at a gym or in a studio will mean you’re using specific indoor cycling bikes, many people with upright bikes access live and on-demand classes from their homes. You don’t need a high-spec indoor cycling bike to access classes but always make sure your equipment is safe because instructors will often invite riders to stand up on the pedals, and a regular upright bike may not be suitable for this.
Many stationary bike manufacturers now take advantage of technology and software to deliver a more immersive at-home experience. Online classes are becoming more popular, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw gyms and fitness centres closing for several months at a time. Software can give users access to on-demand classes or games and allow serious outdoor cyclists to train indoors during the winter. Users can access this via monthly app subscriptions or by purchasing smart indoor bikes.
5 Benefits of Indoor Cycling Classes
You’ll ride harder
People often find group exercise more engaging than working out alone. There are obvious social benefits to meeting the same or similarly-minded people regularly, but evidence suggests that people tend to workout harder when exercising with others. There may be several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s easier to be competitive when you’re in a group. This can manifest itself in two ways, either as internal competitiveness (when someone tries to beat their own personal best or achieve goals and targets they’ve set themselves) or external competitiveness (pitting themselves against others in the class). We saw this when we took our electricity-generating indoor bikes to Bloomberg HQ in London. On the main stage behind the instructor was a big screen displaying the real-time clean energy generation of each rider and each team of riders. Some people wanted to beat the person next to them. Others wanted to beat their power generation.
You’re more likely to show up
Anyone who has exercised intensively will know that some days are tougher than others. The brain will almost always give up before the body, and it can feel so good to quit. Many people find it easier to keep riding when they’re in a class because they don’t want anyone to see them quit. They might also use the high-energy atmosphere to keep going even when they’re desperate to stop. One of the advantages of indoor cycling is that riders can override the resistance manually, so if you are struggling, then you can also bring it right down to a more manageable pace, which is far less noticeable than getting up midway through a military boot camp or keep-fit class. Indoor cycling classes often attract the same people, and if you’ve made friends or connections in the class, it can make riders more accountable for turning up. It’s far easier to drop out when you only have to answer to yourself.
The NBC News website writes about one study which found 95% of people who started a weight loss programme with a friend completed it compared to 76% who did it alone.
Indoor cycling is high-intensity
You’ll burn a lot of calories during an indoor cycling class. The number depends on several factors, including the rider’s weight, how fast and how long they’re riding, but according to Harvard Health, cycling vigorously for 30 minutes burns between 315 and 441 calories.
Like other forms of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise, indoor cycling can boost skin health. We’ve covered this more in-depth previously, but essentially the increased blood flow we get from exercise means oxygen is circulated more quickly, permeating skin cells with nutrients. Better circulation can also help transport waste materials to the kidneys more quickly. One benefit specific to indoor cycling over outdoor riding is that outdoor riders are exposed to sunlight which can lead to skin damage if the rider isn’t using suncream.
Classes can feel more like an experience and less like exercise
Indoor cycling classes don’t feel like traditional exercise, especially if you ride in a live studio with an experiential vibe — music, lights and decor. Indoor cycling is also high-intensity but low-impact, which makes it easier on the body than other forms of exercise like running. That’s not to say you won’t feel it (because you absolutely will, especially in the beginning), but it won’t put as much pressure on your joints. This high-intensity experiential element can make it easier for riders to ‘get into the zone’ and focus on riding rather than responding to the common hazards when riding outdoors — other road users and pedestrians, for example. It’s easier to maintain a high intensity and speed on a stationary bike because it doesn’t move. It makes indoor cycling very effective at calorie burning and helping reduce stress and anxiety, especially because the repetitive nature can make it easier to focus the mind.
Instructors are on hand to help
An indoor cycling class will have an instructor leading the session. There are several benefits to this; they’re setting the pace and the intensity, making it easier for each rider to put their best effort in. Instructors can help beginners or anyone riding with an injury by explaining how to adjust the bike and giving general advice on how to get the most from the session. They’ll be well aware that in a single class, there will be varying levels of experience and fitness, so they may ask you to sit near the front. In some classes (and on some smart bikes), digital resistance is controlled by the instructor allowing participants to focus on riding rather than setting their own resistance.
Indoor cycling classes are a fun and exhilarating way to exercise. They’re great for igniting your competitive side and for creating an atmosphere of energy that can help you push through even when your brain (or legs) tells you to stop. Thanks to technology, you can now also join live cycling classes or access on-demand libraries through websites, apps and streaming platforms, so it’s never been easier to reap the benefits of this intense but invigorating method of exercise.
Looking to generate electricity as you ride in your next indoor cycling class? Pre-order the RE:GEN today for 2023 delivery.