Is a Recumbent vs. Upright Bike Better?

Are you in the market for a stationary bike and can’t decide between a recumbent and an upright? Find out which burns more calories and which is the better choice for you.

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Biking is a popular way to burn calories and get a cardiovascular workout at the same time. Outdoor cycling may be more exciting, but there are days where you can’t get outside to ride. That’s when an indoor stationary bike comes in handy. Weather isn’t an issue when you can pedal away the pounds indoors. There are two main types of stationary bike – a recumbent bike and an upright one. Recumbent vs. upright bike – which is better?

Recumbent vs.Upright Bike: What’s the Difference?

An upright bike is similar to a standard bike – except it’s stationary. An upright bike has a higher seat and your legs hang down vertically. When you pedal you move your legs straight up and down. A recumbent bike has a lower seat and the pedals lie in front of the seat, so the legs are positioned horizontally and your back is supported. Most people find a recumbent bike to be the more comfortable of the two bikes. The seat supports your back better and the positioning of your body is easier on the joints.

Recumbent Bike vs.Upright: Which Burns More Calories?

Small studies have compared the recumbent and upright bike in terms of their effects on heart rate and energy expenditure. One study of found that heart rates were lower on a recumbent vs. upright bike at sub-maximal exercise levels. On the other hand, a more recent study found no difference between the two bikes in terms of energy expenditure. An upright bike allows your legs to work a little less hard since it uses the upper body to do a portion of the work – while the recumbent bike depends solely on movement of the legs.

Upright vs. Recumbent Bike: Which Should You Choose?

There isn’t a major difference in the number of calories burned between the two types of stationary bikes and both will give you a good workout. It comes down to which is more comfortable for you. If you have back or joint problems, the recumbent bike is a better choice.

If you don’t have orthopedic issues and just want to burn major calories, the upright bike may be a better choice since you can stand up to pedal at a higher resistance to simulate cycling up a hill which gives you a more intense workout. Try both and see which one feels best to you. Then choose the one you’re more likely to use.

References:

MSN Health and Fitness. “Bike Dilemma: Regular or Recumbent?”

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1 Comment
  1. Posted May 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    A good topic. I generally dont like cycling as compared to treadmill or cross-trainer as I burn less calories for the same time. BUt between recumbent and upright, I prefer the former, because the latter makes my butt go numb.

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