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Indoor cycling workouts

Whether you're looking to burn fat, improve your fitness or try an exciting new class, our expert guide to indoor cycling will get you off to a flying start.
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Remember the days when exercise wasn't a chore? The days when hopping on your bike to cycle down the shops with your pals was fun and exciting, not a way to burn off last night's ice cream. Today, many women and men are rekindling that childhood love and discoing and partying their way to a hot body in an indoor cycling class.

Bespoke indoor studios are popping up all over the place and fitness clubs are laying on more and more of these classes, but what is it about today's indoor cycling programmes that are so addictive? And are there any downsides to this intense, full-body cardio experience?

The indoor cycling revolution

Over 20 years ago, pro South African cyclist Johnny G created one of the most popular indoor cycling programmes, called 'Spinning' so he could train during the off-season. Now, small cycling studios are coming from over the pond and landing very firmly in the UK.

People of all ages are willing to pay sometimes more than £15 for these 45-minute high-energy classes and even cancelling their gym membership so they can ditch the services they don't use, be taught by expert cycling instructors and exercise among like-minded people.

This new breed of cycling instructors cranks up the intensity, pumps up the music, and urges riders to turn up the resistance as they ride their stationary bikes. Indoor cycling now also uses dumbbells and resistance bands to help tone the upper body. Some studios also couple the workout with yoga, Pilates and circuit training.

"We have taken the basic format and made it more of an all-encompassing experience," says Stefano Ruggeri, Schwinn master trainer and instructor at BOOM! Cycle in Shoreditch, London. "There is loud, upbeat music, disco balls and light hand-weights, so we are always keeping people engaged and motivated," he says.

Indoor cycling programmes are an efficient workout, which appeals in a high-pressured, multitasking world.

"When performed correctly the benefits are huge," says Sarah Morelli, head of education and training and international master instructor for The Spinning Programme. "People often think that it's only your legs that get fit and toned, but your core strength and upper body will also feel the benefits and get stronger too."

Body benefits

"Cycling can change your body." Stefano Ruggeri says he's seen people "lose excess body fat and improve their anaerobic fitness".

But the benefits don't stop there. "You'll increase your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your hip, knee and ankle joints, as well as the muscles in your legs and core," says Gillian Reeves, Virgin Active's national group exercise manager.

"It'll also protect you from chronic conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity," says Stefano.

You've probably heard of runner's high too - that rush of feel-good chemicals called endorphins that occurs after a run. You'll get it from a session of indoor cycling too.

"You'll leave on a high, and mentally relaxed," says Sarah Morelli. This endorphin rush can also result in improved sleep, increased relaxation and reduced stress levels. In fact research suggests that you'll not only reduce your anxiety, but you'll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety even after the workout is over.

"There will be moments where the sympathetic nervous system will kick in and start releasing endorphins," explains Stefano. "Most importantly you will walk out of the class feeling great and with a huge sense of achievement."

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