Cycling: What Is It and How It Can Benefit You
by Lee Wright, BS, BSMI (CPFT)
Wellness Director, Conoco
Studio cycling, known by many different names such as
group indoor cycling, Spinning, Cycle Reebok, Pace, and
others, has become one of the hottest exercise formats
to hit the fitness industry since step aerobics. What is
this phenomenon that appeals to the elite iron man athlete
and the 65-year-old grandmother?
Modeled after an outdoor bicycle training session and
originally designed to help train professional cyclists
and athletes, studio cycling has now become a low-impact
instructor lead indoor stationary bike workout assisted
by cycling technology, general exercise, heart rate training
principles, motivational cues and music. The instructor
literally creates a "virtual" outdoor bike ride
traveling over a variety of terrains.
Part of the popularity of studio cycling is due to the
types of bikes that are used. The specially designed fixed
gear stationary bike replicate the kinesthetic experience
of riding an outdoor bicycle. The feel is accomplished
through a belt-driven or chain-driven flywheel mechanism
and a seat and handlebars that can be positioned so the
rider achieves a comfortable, streamlined racing position.
Resistance is increased or decreased using a mechanism
that works like the gearshift of a conventional outdoor
bicycle. Resistance is self-regulated, making studio cycling
appealing to all fitness levels.
Another primary attraction of studio cycling is the low
intimidation factor. It is a program for everyone, at any
age, and every level of fitness. A rider doesn' t need
a lot of skill to fit in. Another plus is the group setting,
which provides enough competition to inspire individuals
to a better workout. Participants have the option to increase
or decrease pedaling speed, vary their positions on the
cycle (seated or standing), and alternate the level of
resistance at any time during the workout. Novice cyclists
might ride seated using lesser resistance to simulate level
riding, or add more resistance to give the feel of hill
climbing. Other body positions include running (pedaling
while standing with moderate resistance for the feel of
flats), standing climbs, jumping (coming out of the saddle
repeatedly while maintaining a steady pedal cadence), and
sprinting (riding at a fast cadence with low to moderate
resistance). Everyone finishes the "road race" at
the same time, regardless of ability, gaining a sense of "reaching
Some of the Benefits Of Studio Cycling
A study conducted by Bicycling Fitness Advisory Board
member Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D. and others found that during
a typical 45-minute cycling class an individual burns 450
to 600 calories, significantly more calories than a full
hour of fast walking or low impact aerobics. Making it
an excellent way to lose weight.
Research has shown that a typical indoor cycling workout
evokes an average heart rate (HR) response of 87 percent
of maximum and an average VO2 response of 74 percent of
maximum. (Stavig, Francis & Buono 1998)
The visual imagery provided by the instructor sets cycling
workouts apart from the usual boredom of stationary cycling.
There is no time for tedium, thus solving one of the biggest
complaints about stationary cycling, boredom.
Weight-bearing cycling techniques such as pedaling while
out of the saddle, builds muscular strength in quads, hamstrings,
calves, hips, and abdominal.
The skills built indoors have a direct benefit to outdoor
Both the novice and advanced participant can work out
side-by-side and control their own effort by increasing
or decreasing the resistance.
Participants experience road cycling without all the associated
People of all ages and fitness levels can take a stationary
bike and transform it into a powerful workout tool.
A great choice for the cyclist who wants to take his/her
outdoor program inside during inclement weather.
Compared to running or impact aerobics, cycling is a low
impact exercise that is easier on the body, particularly
Lee Wright is the avid cyclist with many years of road
and off road cycling experience. She has competed in many
long distance cycling tours and is a group studio cycling
instructor at The Downtown YMCA. Lee is the co-owner of
Cyclistics, a group cycling certification and continuing
education company recognized by the American Council on
Exercise awarding 1.2 ACE continuing education credits
and accredited by the University of Houston earning 1-college
semester hour. For information about upcoming Group Cycling
Specialists Certifications and workshops, contact Lee at
713.869.8355 or email her at Cyclistics@yahoo.com.
View Lee's Bio