Exercise bikes are undoubtedly one of the best pieces of equipment to get an excellent cardio workout with. But should seniors use them? If so, what health benefits do they offer and how should you go buying one? You can find the answers to these questions and more in this article.
An exercise bike is definitely a great option for seniors looking to get some exercise. They provide low-impact cardio workouts and are very safe to use. Using an exercise bike builds bone and muscle strength in the lower body, burns calories, prevents non-communicable diseases, improves the mental state, and enables a longer and happier life. Unless any pre-existing condition forbids it, all seniors should give exercise bikes a try.
Types of exercise bikes
Exercise bikes or stationary bikes can be divided into three categories:-
- Upright Stationary Bikes: An upright bike is probably the most common type of stationary bike. As the name suggests, you would be sitting in an upright position as the handlebars are at a higher position than the seat. Upright bikes are similar to regular outdoor bikes.
- Recumbent Stationary Bikes: This type of exercise bike does not have any handlebars at the front. The seat is large, has back support, and is in a reclined position. There are handles on either side of the seat. Recumbent bikes are usually used by those who have problems in their back or joints.
- Indoor Cycle/Spin Bike: You will see indoor cycles being used in spin classes. More commonly known as spin bikes, these machines are designed to replicate road bikes. The handlebars are at a level or lower than the saddle, meaning you’ll have to lean forward. The flywheel is typically heavier to provide more of a challenge and keep the motion smooth at high speeds.
Advantages of exercise bikes
There are multiple reasons why using an exercise bike is more advantageous than other forms of physical activity. This is also why exercise bikes are so popular and are now commonplace in gyms and fitness centers.
- One of the most common reasons why people choose to use an exercise bike, over a treadmill, for example, is because of its low-impact. There is little stress placed on the ankle, knee, and hip joints since the feet never leave the pedals.
- Exercise bikes offer an excellent aerobic exercise that boosts your cardiovascular health. There are also numerous other benefits from this type of exercise, helping you to lead a healthier and longer life.
- Depending on how you use a stationary bike and various other factors, you can burn a lot of calories. Therefore, stationary bikes are a great way to get rid of excess body fat and lose weight.
- You have the opportunity to strengthen your lower body muscles with an exercise bike. At lower resistance levels, the muscles will get toned. These muscles include the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
- Compared to riding a bike outside, pedaling on a stationary bike is a lot safer. You do not have to deal with wearing helmets and pads. You can just hop on and start pedaling. Additionally, you can work out on a stationary bike in any weather.
Benefits of exercise for seniors
We all know that any form of physical activity is always beneficial for us. These benefits also apply to the elderly. But what exactly are these benefits? Various studies have shown that exercise at old age can:-
- prevent coronary disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancers.
- strengthen the bones and muscles, and improve coordination, thus allowing seniors to be more independent.
- improve stamina, endurance, and reduce joint pain/swelling.
- uplift mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve overall mental health.
- delay the onset of mental diseases such as dementia.
More detailed information can be found on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in an article published in BioMed Research International which is a peer-reviewed journal.
Exercise guidelines for seniors
If you are in your 50s or 60s, you know better than anyone that your body can’t do all the things it could before. However, there is still a minimum amount of exercise that you should do to have a better lifestyle. Approximately 1 in 5 adults around the world are physically inactive and that number is most likely higher among those above 60 years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for people above the age of 65. Each session should be at least 10 minutes long.
You can do either aerobic exercises or lightweight training. Those who are exceptionally fit can perform up to twice the amount of exercise. But do not strain yourself too hard. If you are unsure about how much exercise you can do, or if you have any medical conditions, consult with a physician before taking up any activity. Generally, you should try to be as active as possible to reap the benefits mentioned previously. Having said that, we believe that an exercise bike is one of the best options for this.
What to look for in an exercise bike for seniors
Before you go off to buy a stationary bike for home use, there are some things that you should look for in the machine. These traits are especially important for older exercise enthusiasts.
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Comfort and Adjustability
An exercise bike should be comfortable enough so that it can be used for a long period of time. The biggest determiners of comfort are the seat and the handlebars. The seat should be stable, have the right amount of padding, and be the right width. The handlebars should be at an optimum height and distance relative to the seat. Look for an adjustable seat and handlebars. Their exact position will depend on the user’s height and preference.
If you experience any back pain, then you should opt for a recumbent exercise bike. The seat on these exercise bikes has a backrest that provides lumbar support. Other design features to look for are pedals that are close to the ground and a walkthrough design. This makes it easier for seniors to get on and off the machine.
It is better to have as many features as possible on the console. Look for a heart rate monitor, built-in workout programs, and controls for varying the resistance. Of course, it should also have a good display and show basic metrics such as distance, time, and calories. As you get older, the need to properly regulate your workouts becomes more and more important. That way, you won’t push yourself too hard.
Look for a wide range of resistance. Also, remember that the minimum difficulty of every machine is not the same. Make sure that the lowest level is pretty easy for you. Moreover, it’s better if you can find a machine that allows you to increase the resistance in small increments rather than large jumps.
Just like with other age groups, weight can be an issue among the elderly. You should check the weight capacity of a stationary bike before purchasing, especially if you are overweight. A heavier machine will also be more stable and easier to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Which type of exercise bike is best for seniors?
Ans.: Most physicians and trainers (and ourselves) would agree that recumbent exercise bikes are the best choice for seniors. The reclined seat provides back support and also takes a lot of the weight off the knees and ankles. This is important since joint issues and back problems are common ailments among the elderly. If you are able, then, by all means, go for an upright bike or a spin bike. However, you should only do it if your physician okays it.
Q2. What other exercises can the elderly do to remain active?
Ans.: Just because you are old does not mean that your options are limited. You can do all kinds of things such as swimming, water aerobics, yoga, pilates, walking, bodyweight exercises, and even some strength training with light dumbbells. You can also use elliptical machines in place of running. All of these are great workout options and are generally safe. What you should avoid are high-impact exercises, heavyweights, and anything that your body won’t allow due to medical conditions.
Q3. Can the elderly lose fat with an exercise bike?
Ans.: Losing fat requires you to burn lots of calories, and exercise bikes are one of the best pieces of equipment to do just that. If your body allows it, then you can burn enough calories to lose weight. The exact value might differ according to intensity and bodyweight. Generally, you can burn 200-300 calories in 30 minutes. Nevertheless, to see better results, you must also maintain a healthy diet.
To sum it up, there is very little exercise equipment that would be as beneficial to the elderly as a stationary bike. There is an overwhelming amount of data that supports the advantages of cardio exercise at all ages. And what better way to perform cardio workouts safely than on an exercise bike. It doesn’t have to be a stationary bike as long as you are doing some sort of physical activity. It will make your retirement even more enjoyable.