Unlike upright bikes, recumbent bikes sport wider, lower, and reclined seats that allow you to pedal horizontally, taking the pressure off your joints. From a therapeutic point of view, they’re a great alternative to the traditional upright bike – let alone the high-impact treadmill – for people with hip, back, or knee pain.
However, just because they don’t exert your joints or provide a full-body workout doesn’t mean they burn fewer calories than other cardio machines. You’ll be surprised to know you can burn more calories than expected on a recumbent exercise bike with just a few simple tips.
But first, let’s discover the caloric expenditure of this cardio equipment and the factors that affect the number of calories you burn on it.
How Many Calories Do You Burn on a Recumbent Bike?
Cycling for one hour at moderate intensity on a recumbent exercise bike burns from 330 to 450 calories, while an upright bike burns around 600 calories/hour and a spin bike around 900 calories/hour.
Although recumbent stationary bikes burn fewer calories than other bike types, they can be a better means of weight loss.
The primary reason the calories burned by recumbent bikes are fewer is that they’re easier on the body and generally more comfortable. By contrast, the upright bike requires a certain fitness level to be used, and the spin bike necessitates posture control. This makes going for longer durations on them hard, especially for beginners and those with injuries.
In other words, it’s easier to complete an hour on a recumbent bicycle than on a stationary bike, which makes the fact that it burns more calories unimportant because what matters is the intensity and duration of your workout. And these two factors are easier achieved on a recumbent bike.
Is a Recumbent Bike Good for Weight Loss?
A recumbent bike isn’t just for physical therapy and maintaining your fitness level. The fact that it provides a great aerobic workout and works the largest muscles in your body, including your hamstrings, quads, and glutes, at the same time makes it extra effective for fat loss.
You can lose weight by cycling for 30-60 minutes daily at a moderate pace and following a calorie deficit diet. Depending on the intensity of your workouts and the other factors we’re going to discuss, you can shed from 1-2 pounds weekly by exercising on a recumbent exercise bike.
Factors Affecting How Many Calories the Recumbent Bike Burns
So the recumbent bike burns around 400 calories/hour. However, the exact number of calories you burn depends on individual factors that affect your metabolic rate and the speed by which you burn fat.
Your body composition plays an important role in the speed by which you burn calories. Unluckily, if you have modest muscle mass and a normal fat percentage, you’re the least fortunate of all groups. Bulky people and those who have a higher percentage of fat tend to burn calories faster.
Muscles are more metabolically active than fat. That’s why the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn during each exercise session. Since males are generally bulkier than females, they burn 5-10% more calories at rest and even more upon working out.
Ever wondered why people lose weight quickly when they start exercising, then the rate slows down after a couple of months? That’s because your starting body weight has a say in your weight loss rate.
Heavier people burn more calories because their bodies require more fuel to power the extra body mass. So their overall caloric burn is higher than lighter people whose bodies don’t need as much energy to power their movements.
Workout Intensity and Duration
Finally, burning calories depend on the speed and intensity of your workouts. Just because two people rode 10 miles on their recumbent bikes doesn’t mean they exerted the same effort. The first may have completed this distance in 30 minutes, while the other finished it in an hour. Needless to say, the one who rode at a higher intensity burned more calories.
Tips to Boost Your Calorie Burn on the Recumbent Bike
Now that you know what to expect from your recumbent bike workout, let’s see how you can increase your calorie burn during each session.
Incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training
Sticking to moderate intensity when doing an aerobic workout at all times won’t do you any good after a while. Because our bodies adapt to the amount of effort we exert, you need to alter this effort from time to time. A good way to do that would be by incorporating interval training into your routine.
Divide your workout into periods where you cycle at high intensity, followed by laid-back pedaling for a couple of minutes, then repeat.
Go For Longer Periods
If you can’t pedal harder, then go for longer on the bike. The duration of your workout is just as important as the speed and strength of your strokes. The longer you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn.
Use Your Arms
Recumbent bikes don’t provide an upper body workout, but they don’t require you to balance your body by holding onto the handles either. That leaves your hands free during the exercise.
You can take advantage of that and increase your calorie burn by exercising your arms while cycling. Consider lifting some hand weights or using a resistance band while working your legs on the machine.
Power Your Exercise
Although it’s important to cut down on calories to lose weight, eating a snack that features whole-grain carbohydrates and healthy proteins can help you perform better. You might think that going for a ride on an empty stomach will help you burn more calories. Yet, that will only diminish your power reserves more quickly and shorten the duration of your workout.
Emma James, 29 years old professional fitness trainer with Bachelor’s degree in Physical Fitness Technician from Boston University.