Guest Blogger: Jenni Hughes
In recent years, indoor cycling has become one of the most popular and effective means of enhancing your health and fitness. In accommodating a greater range of flexible exercise routines, indoor cycling assists those who tire from the motivational fatigue  that often accompanies many exercise regimens. In addition, this form of cycling also enjoys an assortment of benefits touching areas as diverse as disease prevention, weight loss and muscle toning. Understanding the advantages of indoor cycling will help you organise your exercise plan in a much more informed direction. Overall, you’ll find that cycling has become the efficient way to achieve major results both in the short and long term.
Indoor versus Outdoor Cycling
Outdoor cycling is not for everyone. The effort of having to leave home, particularly if one lives in a meteorologically unfavourable location, will be enough to convince many to stay put. Indoor cycling answers that question. You won’t suffer the inconvenience of having to deal with local traffic that would invariably disrupt your direction and mood. Indoor cycling ensures that you have total control over how you’ll approach your exercise session while limiting any extraneous interference.
This type of exercise also benefits those who live in a pollution rich environment whose oxygen availability is sparse. Oxygenation of muscles is, of course, an accurate barometer of fitness performance. This explains why so many performance enhancing drugs, such as EPO, focus on increasing the blood’s oxygen transfer capacity . Dependency on these drugs frequently occurs leaving the cyclist to seek rehabilitation assistance . As we’ll note below, indoor cycling has two benefits in this regard; it increases oxygen transfer capacity while lowering your risk of mental health afflictions.
Systemic Advantages of Cycling
Investing your time and effort in cycling can reap some remarkable bodily profits. As a low impact exercise, this means you can enjoy its benefits while reducing your risk to strains and injuries. While cycling significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and bone injuries, its long term effects can spread much more broadly than that .
One such area, touched upon earlier, concerns that of mental health. The positive oxygenation to the brain during exercise has a sufficiently powerful effect if left alone. However, this effect is augmented by the release of naturally occurring endorphins that have been shown to significantly reduce stress levels and depression. Furthermore, if you attend spinning classes, then you’re probably familiar with fitness instructors imbuing a sense of motivational purpose into your indoor cycling exercise. Research has repeatedly married a link between aerobic exercise  and improved mental health and this is no less true of indoor cycling.
However, one of the most underrated benefits of indoor cycling concerns weight loss. Evidence shows that 45 minutes of cycling can burn as much as 500 calories. Given that one pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories; this means only 7 short sessions can shed those unwanted pounds in a very efficient way. The accompanying increase in your metabolic rate and muscle tone will, in the long term, bolster the intensity of caloric burn. Research conducted by the University of Palermo confirmed  these body fat reductions even when the participants had no restriction on food consumption.
These systemic effects are very lucrative for the body as it becomes a powerful efficient machine. However, indoor cycling has more to offer. The intensity that complements a cycling session also has marked effects on your overall muscle tone.
Indoor Cycling Workouts and Muscle Toning
It would be in error to assume that indoor cycling is exclusively a cardiovascular exercise. Many muscle groups from different parts of your body  will improve as a result of a sustained cycling workout programme. However, the chief benefits will, of course, confer advantage to the muscles in your upper and lower legs.
The upper legs do most of the heavy work in any cycling routine. Muscles such as the quadriceps, which extend from the knee to the pelvis, perform its duty when the pedal is pushed down. This is in contrast to the hamstring, the muscle at the back of the thigh, which gains from releasing the leg upward once more. In terms of your lower leg, your calf muscles will profit most as you push the pedal down. The flexion and extension of these muscles will improve with every session as long as you challenge your capability each and every time.
Other muscles will also develop. These include your gluteal muscles which, over time, will become much more defined. Perhaps most surprisingly, you can incorporate arm and back exercises into your regular cycling routine. To do this, you can utilise hand weights to perform various movements as you’re cycling. If it’s possible to recline the bike, then this will also have the advantage of working your abs, though not as much as you could gain in outdoor cycling.
The benefits of indoor cycling extend not only to the body but also to the mind. It’s often easy to assume that cycling only benefits the muscles of the legs but this is a false belief. This article has shown that indoor cycling is an incredibly flexible way to exploit its advantages to your entire body. If you haven’t already incorporated indoor cycling into your regimen, then it’s something you should seriously consider.
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Contributed by Jenni Hughes