Cardio is one of the most popular forms of exercise people often do. After all, there are plenty of different cardio options. They will likely be able to find an exercise that fits their schedule, goals, and physical requirements. From running and walking to swimming and jump roping, cardio is a great way to get active and stay healthy. One of the most popular forms across the world, no matter where you go, is cycling. After all, one of the greatest sporting events in the world, the Tour De France, is all about riding a bike.
People of all fitness levels can engage in cycling and can go at their own pace. If you are not confident in your skills outdoors, you can always take it inside and use a stationary bike. Whether inside or out, cycling is an excellent way to burn fat, lose weight, and build lean muscle. However, there are plenty of things people don’t know about this activity, which could help them decide what type of exercise they want to do.
Fitness Nation encourages everyone to get out and get active. You have several options available to you, from cardio to weightlifting. Cycling is just one of many choices. Fitness Nation offers many classes to our members, including cycling classes. If you are interested in joining this class, sign up with us today.
Before we discuss the difference between indoor and outdoor cycling, we should first address some of the main health benefits of this activity in general. While many people ride a bike for leisure or sport, many people use this activity as a way to stay in shape and healthy. Some of the health benefits of cycling include:
- Low Impact: Riding a bike puts less pressure and stress on your joints than running.
- Full Body Workout: When riding a bicycle, you engage all the body’s major muscle groups.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health: Cycling boosts and stimulates your heart, lungs, and circulation, reducing your risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. It strengthens the muscles in your heart, lowers your resting heart rate, and improves blood flow.
- Boost Mental Health: Like all exercise, cycling improves your mental health. It eases symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Weight Loss: Riding a bike builds lean muscle, burns fat, and raises your metabolic rate. Combing it with a healthy diet can help you lose weight.
- Increase Bone Density: When you pedal, which is a resistance activity, you pull on the muscles in your leg, which, in turn, pull on the bones, increase bone density.
- Improves Your Balance, Coordination, and Posture: By keeping your body upright and stabilizing your bike, you improve your balance and coordination. As you get older, these things decline, so riding a bike can improve them. It also helps prevent falls and fractures.
On top of these benefits, cycling can also reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes. As you can see, riding a bike has plenty of health benefits.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
When people think about riding a bike, they think about cycling outdoors. After all, that is where most people learned how to ride a bike when they were younger. However, over time, cycling indoors has been increasingly popular, as gyms are full of various stationary bikes and cycling classes. Furthermore, personal in-home bikes, such as the Peloton, have allowed people to enjoy cycling from the comfort of their own home, with all the benefits of classes and more.
Now, you may be wondering if there is a significant difference between riding a bike outdoors and using a stationary bike indoors. While the movements are the same, and they share many of the same benefits, there are differences.
At their foundation, stationary bikes are different than regular bikes. Most stationary bikes, which you mostly find indoors, have a flywheel, which is a 30- to 40-pound wheel that gives the rider resistance. You may notice that this flywheel continues to spin after you have stopped pedaling. Pushing against this flywheel requires you to work your hamstrings more than on a traditional bike, which works your hip flexors and quads as you pedal against the friction of the road and the wind.
Typically, cycling classes keep you at about 75 to 95% of your maximum heart rate, which is a quality level to get an effective cardiovascular workout. However, because you mostly use your hamstrings and the bike gives you more help, you don’t burn as many calories. Indoor cycling may feel harder because you are stationary, and you use the same muscles over and over. However, if you join a class, the music and classmates around you may motivate you more.
As we mentioned earlier, you typically use your quads and hip flexors to keep yourself upright and stable when riding a bike outside. While bicyclists can reach the same heart rate and even higher as those indoors, most struggle to pedal that fast while maintaining their balance on their bike. On top of that, they must navigate the terrain around them, which may require them to slow their pace. However, in contrast to those indoors, you use more of your legs, activating your glutes, hamstrings, quads, shins, and calves. You will get more of a whole-body workout by riding a traditional bike outdoors. However, you have to work hard to get this entire body workout, which many people just don’t do.
Cycling outdoors does often feel easier than indoors, however. Time seems to pass by faster, as well. The changing landscape tends to ease the difficulty of this activity. Unless you visit a particularly challenging bike trail, riding a bike outdoors feels easier from an effort perspective.
Other Things to Consider
Regardless of your choice, there are many other things you should know before you decide to cycle. Many things like comfort and purpose play a role in choosing what you should do before you begin riding. Here are some useful things to think about before you cycle:
- Fit: You need to find a bike that fits your size and body. You do not want to feel like you are reaching for the pedals or are not extending your legs with each push.
- The Seat: When cycling, whether indoors or outdoors, you may need to invest in comfortable biking shorts that protect your rear-end. There are also padded seats to help with comfort. Keep this in mind since you may be riding for hours at a time. Also, find a riding style that is most comfortable for you.
- Wear a Helmet: If you do intend to ride outdoors, always wear a helmet. Often, you are moving at high speeds, which can be dangerous if an accident were to occur.
- Follow the Rules of the Road: If you do not have a bike path near you, sometimes your only choice is the road. You must follow the rules of the road and ride with caution.
- Bend Your Elbows: When you lock your arms, the vibrations from the bike travel up your neck and shoulders and cause pain. It also makes you less flexible, which makes it more dangerous if someone bumps you if you are riding outside.
These are just a handful of useful tips to keep in mind before you begin cycling. If you want to get active but lack the motivation, sign up at Fitness Nation and join one of our cycling classes. A group environment is a great way to create competition and boost motivation. Join us today!