Here’s what 30 minutes on an exercise bike can do to your body

woman riding indoor bike smiling
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether you’ve just added one of the best exercise bikes to your home, or you’re kick-starting a new workout routine, get ready to reap the rewards. Exercise bikes are a popular piece of home gym equipment — they don’t need to be replaced constantly, and even if you opt for the likes of the Peloton Bike or the Peloton Bike Plus, the monthly subscription is cheaper than most gym memberships. Plus, you can even pedal whilst watching television. But what are the benefits of regular cycling, and are exercise bikes good for weight loss? 

For those who are looking to lose weight, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity at least five days per week, or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days per week. If you’re looking to increase muscle, you should keep to around three days of HIIT a week, but focus on shorter and even more high-intensity sessions.

The bike will help to work particular muscles and can be beneficial for several parts of your body and health system. But, there are also things to keep an eye out for. We spoke with Physical Therapist Anthony Maritato, of Choose PT 1st, to find out exactly what 30 minutes on an exercise bike does to your body.

What muscles do you work on an exercise bike?

“When it comes to riding an exercise bike the main muscle groups you are working include the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals,” says Maritato.

The quadriceps are the four main muscles on the front of your upper leg. This group includes the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius, and the vastus medialis muscles. 

The hamstrings are the muscles behind the upper leg and include the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris muscles.

The gluteals are the powerhouse muscle group of the hip. This is often referred to as the buttock and includes gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

When cycling with the correct form, you can also work the abs. Plus, a recent study found that “stationary cycling exercise relieves pain and improves sport function in individuals with knee osteoarthritis,” so it might even be a safer choice than other forms of cardio for those suffering from knee pain. 

Is an exercise bike good for weight loss?

Maritato explains that weight loss may be achieved in many ways from reducing caloric intake to increasing caloric expenditure and many variations in between.

A common recipe for weight loss includes burning 250 calories more per day while you consume 250 calories less per day to create a 500 calories per day deficit. After seven days this equals 3,500 calories which equate to approximately 1lbs of fat loss per week.

Riding an exercise bike is a wonderful method of weight loss for several reasons:

  • It is a form of non-impact cardiovascular exercise that may be performed indoors 
  • It is easy to adjust the intensity of exercise and duration of exercise with each exercise session 
  • It is reasonably affordable 
  • Exercise bikes come in a variety of models and sizes allowing exercises with various body types to easily adjust the exercise bike to fit your body 

Here’s more on how to lose weight using an exercise bike

What can 30 minutes on an exercise bike do to your body?

There are a number of different benefits to jumping on a stationary bike regularly, these include: 

Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain: Low-intensity continuous exercise like riding an exercise bike may reduce chronic low back pain. Studies have found that riding an exercise bike for 30 minutes may improve the cardiovascular system, desensitize lumbar structures, increase circulation, and reduce stiffness.

Improved Mood and Brain Function: While we don’t fully understand the exact mechanism for how regular exercise improves mood and cognition, there is a growing body of evidence to support this hypothesis. Several studies suggest that exercise may have a beneficial effect on hormone regulation. Other studies look at how exercise may help a person to feel healthier, stronger, and empowered.

Improved Sleep: In a 2012 study, sleep data across 305 total participants was analyzed and the research suggested that participation in an exercise training program has moderately positive effects on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults.

How to lose weight using an exercise bike: image shows man on exercise bike

(Image credit: Getty)

Who should avoid riding an exercise bike?

The most common injuries sustained using an exercise bike are either overuse injuries like tendinitis or bursitis, or mechanical injuries related to improper fitting of the bike to the rider.

Tendinitis and bursitis are acute inflammatory conditions in which the tendon or bursae become inflamed. This could happen when you increase intensity or duration too quickly, or when an exerciser neglects recovery time between workouts.

It is often hard to know how much is too much, but one rule of thumb is to look for signs of acute inflammation and overtraining. These signs may include pain with palpation, decreased range of motion, increased stiffness, and declining performance.

The common causes of injuries on an exercise bike are: 

  • Low back pain attributed to the seat being too close to the pedals and the lumbar spine experiencing too much lumbar flexion 
  • Knee pain attributed to the seat being too low and experiencing excessive knee flexion 
  • Neck and shoulder pain attributed to too much strain on the upper body 
  • Wrist pain attributed to ill-fitting handlebars 

If you are adding an exercise bike to your home, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of the best indoor cycling shoes. It’s also important to point out that the best exercise is what’s right for you and your body. If you don’t enjoy cycling, there are other forms of cardio that might be better suited to you. Take a look at our treadmill vs exercise bike face-off here. 

Looking for more inspiration? Read what happened when one TG staffer went from not exercising to one month on a Peloton

Mollie Davies
Mollie is a UK based, Welsh, lifestyle journalist. She writes frequently on all things involving women, health and fitness, and beauty - amongst other topics. Her work can be found in Cosmopolitan, Insider, the Independent, Women’s Health and more. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the pottery wheel or walking her basset hound.