Fitness First: Choosing a Stationary Bike

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell March 15, 2012 10:00

I will always remember my first bike, a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and suicide handlebars. The only bike cooler in 1969 was Peter Fonda’s chopper in “Easy Rider.” My brother and I rode all over the dirt roads where we lived, free and independent.

Stationary bikes may not be as cool as our Stingrays, but they are a great tool to help us stay active as we age, maintaining that coveted freedom and independence. And, they make it easy to build leg strength and maintain optimal fitness. You will never go wrong investing in home exercise equipment: Just make sure to keep it out in the open as a visible reminder of your exercise program (and not as a giant clothes hanger!)

Look at various types of stationary bikes to find what best fits your needs.

Upright Bike: These traditional models have been around for a long time. Save money and buy a used one. Good for any fitness level. Cost, $50 and up.

Recumbent Bike: Perfect for those with balance or back problems or for those who never found a bike seat that was comfortable. Cost, $200-$500. Excellent for any fitness level.

Spinning Cycle:  Riding posture on these is similar to a road or mountain bike. Provides a more intense workout, great for conditioning indoors. Cost, $200-$2,000. Also available are stationary “trainers” on which you can mount a regular bike. Cost, $100 and up.

Exercise Pedaler: This mini-bike can be pedaled from a chair, or put on a table as an arm crank. Easy to store and travel with, great for beginners. Cost, about $50.

Before buying a stationary bike, do some research. Visit bike shops, talk to exercise equipment dealers, and try various models. Try different seats, too. Not all are created equal, and comfort is important.

Proper seat height is also important. If you have knee problems, adjust the seat high so that your knee is bent just slightly as you ride.

Start by cycling 15 minutes per day, building to 30 minutes. RPMs should be above 50. Keep resistance low at first, and increase RPMs for increased intensity. To prevent boredom, put your bike in front of a TV, play music, or install a book holder on it.

Boredom may be a small price to pay for the convenience and safety of a stationary bike, which can be used regardless of weather conditions. You’ll never risk the agony of a road accident, and equipment upkeep is minimal. As one of my patients noted, “I’ve never seen a flat tire on a stationary bike.”

Still, as great as stationary bikes are for fitness, I sure wish I had my old Schwinn. One just like it sold on eBay recently for more than $2,000.

Howell is an exercise physiologist.

© 2012 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell March 15, 2012 10:00