How to Do a Cardio Workout on Exercise Bikes

The stationary bike is a good choice for a cardio workout if you’re just getting started with exercise. You get the same cardio benefits as when using the treadmill or elliptical trainer or when walking or running outside. A stationary bike is a great way to ease into cardio. One thing to keep in mind is that doing any new activity will feel challenging, so you may need to start with just a few minutes at a time and slowly work your way up to longer workouts. See how to enjoy a workout for beginners.


Cycling can help you build fitness while protecting your joints. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Low-impact: You won’t have any impact on the joints, which is important if you have problems with your knees or hips. You do it seated, which may be good for people who have chronic back pain.
  • Knees: Cycling helps the knee joint stay naturally lubricated and also emphasizes building strength in the quads, which may help with knee pain. Sometimes strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee and giving it more support can help reduce pain.
  • Crosstraining: Cycling works the opposite lower body muscles from running or walking. While those exercises work the hamstrings at the back of the leg, cycling works the quads in the front of the thigh.
  • Convenience and safety: You can workout inside no matter what the traffic or weather is like.
  • Variety: Most stationary bikes have programs to follow and you can also create your own workout by adjusting the resistance up or down.
  • Multiple options: If you’re at a gym, you’ll likely have access both upright bikes and recumbent bikes. The recumbent bike has you sitting back so that your back has more support, ideal for anyone with back problems.

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any illnesses or injuries or you are on medication that may affect your heart rate or workouts.

Exercising on a Stationary Bike

Pace yourself. If you have a new piece of equipment, you may want to leap on and pedal your heart out; however, you’ll quickly exhaust yourself if you take this route. Use FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type of exercise) principles to determine roughly how much exercise you should start with.

  • “F” is for Frequency. If you are new to cardiovascular exercise, you should start out by exercising three to five days a week. If you are experienced, you can exercise anywhere from five to seven days a week.
  • “I” is for Intensity. This is measured in BPM (beats per minute), so you can measure this best if your bike comes with a heart monitor. Figure out your target heart rate so you know what range is safe for you.
  • “T” is for Time. Beginners should try for 20 – 30 minutes a day, while experienced cyclists should aim for 30 – 60 minutes a day.
  • If you have to start with a shorter regimen, that’s fine! If you haven’t exercised in a long time, 10 minutes might be sufficient to start with. Just keep increasing your time try staying on the bike five minute longer each week.

Vary resistance and speed. Your bike’s settings may be altered as many times during your workout as you wish. Generally, you should start at a lower speed with less resistance, and increase your effort as you get accustomed to the bike. Toggle between levels of difficulty for a more intense interval workout.

  • Bike speed is usually measured in RPM, revolutions per minute. If you’re a beginner, try setting your bike at an average of 60 RPM. With more experience, your average should be more like 80 or 100 RPM. When interval training, try switching between about 50 RPM and 100 RPM. (You should not go above 110 RPM increase resistance instead if you need more of a challenge).
  • If you find yourself bouncing in the saddle of your bike, this means you are not in control of your pedal stroke and you are going too fast. If you are at a high RPM with too little resistance, your pedals are turning because of the momentum of the weighted flywheel. This means you are not doing the work of pedaling, and you are going at an unsafe, uncontrolled cadence.
  • Your bike likely has low, medium, and high resistance setting. Resistance mimics the effect of incline, so it feels like you are riding uphill. Start with a low resistance, and move into using the medium and high settings as your muscles develop. When you are comfortable using all settings, do interval trainings where you switch between medium and low, with short bursts of high resistance.

Distract yourself cautiously. Listening to music you enjoy can usually help your workout by raising your mood, but other forms of media can potentially slow you down. Watching a highly engaging drama, reading, and texting tend to slow your pace and compromise your posture.

  • If you are reading or watching a screen, make sure it’s exactly at eye level so you don’t hunch.
  • If you are exercising with a friend, try interval training at the same intervals so you can chat during recovery time.

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