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How Many Miles Should I Do on a Stationary Bike for Effective Weight Loss?

Updated April 17, 2017

Using a stationary bike is a fun and effective way to increase your fitness and lose weight along the way. However, simply riding a prescribed number of miles on the bike won't necessarily get you to your goals. Reconsider your measurement of bike success, your workout style and your bike settings to ensure you get the most out of your time on the bike.

Miles vs. Minutes

Though you might think the best measure of cycling fitness is number of miles completed, that's actually not the case. It's more important for you to increase the amount of time you can spend at a heart rate that is aerobically challenging for you. It's aerobic activity that will help you lose weight, not just covering miles. You probably will increase the number of miles you can ride over time, but the main factor to consider is time, not distance. Total workout time on the bike is also more critical once you begin doing a variety of types of workouts on the bike to build your fitness and accelerate your weight loss.

Types of Workouts

Riding the stationary bike for 30 minutes can mean a lot of different things. In 30 minutes, you could ride four or five miles at a slow and easy pace. You could also ride 10 miles at a moderately fast pace. In a workout designed to simulate cycling on hills, however, you might only cover three or four miles in those same 30 minutes. Each of these types of workout will provide you with a different fitness challenge. Additionally, you should try to integrate these different types of workout into your schedule to help you lose weight. Riding at a slow pace with little resistance on the stationary bike will burn calories, but fewer and fewer as you gain fitness. Doing interval workouts that require either short bursts of speed or brief efforts at higher resistance (like climbing hills) will burn more calories than a workout that is all at one pace. Interval training has also been shown to speed weight loss in numerous studies, including one 2007 UCLA study that included people riding stationary bikes.

Other Considerations

However long or far you ride on the stationary bike, don't take shortcuts to weight loss by injuring yourself in other ways. While using a stationary bike can be a great way to exercise and lose weight, it's important to prevent knee injuries, upper body soreness and fatigue by adjusting the settings every time you get on the bike. Check the fit of the stationary bike carefully before you begin your workout by ensuring that your seat is at the appropriate height and the handlebars are a comfortable distance from the seat. As you lose weight, especially pay attention to the extension of your legs (which should be just almost a full extension, never locking the knee, during pedalling) and your ability to reach your handlebars as your legs tone up and your belly diminishes. These physical changes may require bike adjustments.

References

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About the Author

Susan Sivek teaches journalism and communication and is also a freelance writer. She has been writing since 1999. Her writing interests include travel, health, exercise, cooking, crafts and more. She has been published in scholarly journals, on MediaShift.org, and on eHow. Sivek holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.