Indoor Cycling

How It Works

Ready to give indoor cycling a spin? Prepare to drip with sweat, get your blood pumping, and want to come back for more.

Indoor cycling classes help you shed fat, improve your heart health, and boost your muscle endurance. Your legs will get a serious workout. By the end of class, you’ll have a steady stream of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins.

Many gyms offer indoor cycling classes. Or you can join one of the popular cycling boutiques, like Flywheel, which combines indoor cycling with a weighted workout for your arms, or SoulCycle, which adds mind-body exercise to its bike routine.

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Plan to do 3-5 classes a week for best results. Or add 1-2 classes a week into your workout routine. Classes usually last about 45-60 minutes.

An instructor will lead the class through different types of cycling, like uphill climbs, bursts of speed, and short recovery periods with easy pedaling. Sometimes you’ll get off the saddle and pedal in a standing position.

There’s a bike for each person in the class. They usually face the same direction, either toward the instructor or a mirror.

The instructor chooses music to go along with each phase of the class. They may play an upbeat song for 5 minutes as you pedal as fast as you can. Then they may play a slower tune while you catch your breath and pedal slowly. You may bike for 5 minutes with a lot of resistance, to mimic riding up a major hill, with a song to match the mood.

Some instructors use imagery to keep you going. You’ll imagine yourself pedaling fast through a desert straightaway, or steadily up a green mountain on a Caribbean island. It’s a great way to keep boredom at bay.

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By the end of the workout, you may feel like you’ve been through a real adventure. And you should be proud of what you accomplished.

Intensity Level: Very High

Indoor cycling is intense. Your heart rate will soar and stay elevated for 45-60 minutes. There will be brief moments of slower pedaling, but most of the class will be steady work.

Areas It Targets

Core: No. This workout doesn’t target your core.

Arms: No. This workout doesn't target your arms.

Legs: Yes. Expect nonstop leg work. Your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves will feel the burn.

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Glutes: Yes. All that pedaling will engage your glutes.

Back: No. This workout doesn’t target your back muscles. However, you may need to change from bent over to sitting upright from time to time during the class.


Flexibility: No. This workout doesn’t focus on flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. Your heart rate will stay elevated throughout this super-charged cardio workout.

Strength: Yes. All that pedaling will boost your muscle strength and endurance.

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Sport: No.

Low-Impact: Yes. There’s no pounding when you’re spinning. Your hip, knee, and ankle joints will be treated gently.

What Else Should I Know?

Cost: Plan to pay for a gym membership or class fees. One class may cost about $35. You’ll pay less per class if you buy them in a bundle.

Good for beginners? Yes. You should pick a class for beginners, talk to the teacher before the class starts and tell them you're new to exercise, and pace yourself. Don't try to keep up with other people in the room. Focus on your own workout

Outdoors: No. This is an indoor workout you do at a gym or indoor cycling studio.

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At home: Yes. You can now do this at home (with bikes like the Peloton) while tuning in to live and on-demand classes.

Equipment required? Gyms have specialty stationary bikes. It’s probably a good idea to bring a towel because you’ll definitely sweat. If you’re advanced or a hard-core indoor cycling enthusiast, you may want to get a pair of cycling shoes that are extra sturdy and can clip on to the bike pedals. Expect to pay $150 or more.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Indoor cycling is a great way to get in your cardio each week. It is a low- impact workout, but it is no ride in the park. Many classes are very high intensity, so talk to your instructor and doctor first if you are out of shape, are pregnant, or have any medical problems. They can help tailor the program to your needs.

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