5 Ways Indoor Cycling Can Improve Chronic Medical Conditions

It’s no secret that physical therapists often have clients ride stationary bicycles as part of their rehab from a physical injury. After all, when it’s done right, cycling is gentle on the joints and muscles, and it improves circulation, muscle strength, and coordination; plus, riding a stationary bike is safe since there aren’t road conditions or balance issues to worry about. Well, here’s a surprise: New research suggests that indoor cycling at various intensities can help improve the symptoms and functionality associated with different medical conditions. Even so, if you have a chronic medical condition, it’s important to get the green light from your physician before starting an indoor cycling regimen. Here are five specific health perks you’ll want to know about.

Reduce your blood pressure.

Given that indoor cycling is a great cardiovascular workout, it’s not surprising that it can also improve your blood pressure. In a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, people with normal or borderline high blood pressure engaged in 20 minutes of cycling at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike or a 20-minute rest period on alternating days and had their blood pressure monitored for hours afterward. On the cycling days, those with elevated blood pressure experienced lower blood pressure for five hours after their workouts and lower blood pressure at work than they did on their non-cycling days.

What’s more, in a 2011 study involving university professors (with high stress jobs but normal blood pressure), researchers from Brazil had the participants cycle for 30 minutes at 80 to 85 percent of their heart rate reserve then monitored their blood pressure for 24 hours. Their blood pressure took a more pronounced dip at night on the cycling days than on the non-cycling days—a very good effect.

Decrease the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee.

There’s a perception that indoor cycling is hard on your knees but it can actually be beneficial for these joints. In fact, research suggests the activity can even improve symptoms of knee osteoarthritis: In a 2012 study at Northern Illinois University, people with mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis of the knee participated in a stationary group cycling program or a control group for 12 weeks. At the end of the program, those in the cycling group were able to walk with greater speed and comfort, and they reported less pain and stiffness than those in the control group did.  

Improve blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.

It’s known that aerobic exercise can help your body use insulin better, which is why the American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes do 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise at least five days a week and avoid going more than two consecutive days without exercising. A 2015 study from Iran found that when men with type 2 diabetes participated in 45-minute indoor cycling sessions at an intensity of 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate, their levels of insulin-like growth factor increased and their fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance were significantly decreased after just one workout. 

Relieve the pain of fibromyalgia.

Whether it’s because indoor cycling triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, or because it can improve your overall sense of well-being, you can pedal your way to lower pain levels if you have fibromyalgia. In a 2015 study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, 25 women with fibromyalgia and 25 of their healthy peers performed Spinning®-style indoor cycling workouts, at an intensity of 75 percent of their maximum heart rate, twice a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, the fibromyalgia-sufferers gained the same cardiovascular benefits as their peers—and they experienced a decrease in neck and shoulder pain. 

Improve your quality of life with multiple sclerosis.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that can cause a wide array of symptoms—including balance and mobility problems, anxiety and depression, tremors, and many others. In a small study, researchers from Turkey had people with multiple sclerosis do progressive resistance training on stationary bikes for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the participants’ balance, fatigue, and depression improved significantly and their fear of falling dropped dramatically. Chalk up another win for the positive mind-body effects of cycling!  

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