Recumbent vs. Upright Bike: Which Is Best for Burning Calories?

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Posted 12/31/20 7:45am by Prim

Riding a stationary bike is an excellent and effective low-impact exercise for burning calories, losing weight, and improving your cardiovascular fitness. When you are looking for a great workout on an exercise bike, you might find yourself wondering: recumbent vs. upright bike, which burns the most calories?

These two most common types of stationary bikes both offer good calorie-burning routines. They both have different levels of comfort, exercise intensity, and advantages and disadvantages.

Depending on your workout preferences, you may find that one suits your needs better than the other.

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike: Comfort

To understand the differences in comfort between a recumbent bike vs. an upright bike, you have to think about how the bikes are built. A recumbent bike positions your spine for comfort. It keeps its rider in a more laidback, reclining position with weight supported by the back and bottom.

An upright bike is more like the traditional bicycle one would see on the streets, with weight resting on the sitting bones, feet, and hands.

A recumbent bike is great for people who want or need more comfort during their workout. It offers that reclined body position along with a larger seat and pedals positioned in front of the body. It is a fantastic choice for anyone dealing with low back pain, as the recumbent bike offers more back support than an upright bike.

An upright bike may be less comfortable and can potentially cause more muscle soreness and fatigue. However, it can often feel comfortable for those who are used to riding outdoors. The extra effort required to sit up straight can also add to greater muscle building by engaging the abdominal muscles and arms.

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike: Intensity of Exercise

Both recumbent and upright bikes will burn calories. Calorie burn is fairly close between the two.

Many find that using an upright bike burns more calories, but it also depends on how you use each bike and the level of effort you put into your workout.

On average, an hour of training on an upright stationary bike burns between 400 and 800 calories. On a recumbent bike, that same hour will burn 320 to 640 calories.

Each of those ranges is based on a low to high intensity. The actual figure can also shift based on one’s weight.

While more calories are burned with an upright bike vs. a recumbent bike, it is clear that the intensity matters. An hour of high-intensity recumbent biking burns more than an hour of low-intensity upright biking. Still, as long as the rider is within the aerobic zone, at 60 to 70 percent of the max heart rate, they will lose weight if they also eat sensibly.

For those who experience a significant dip in calorie burn on a recumbent bike, it could be because the bike allows for more multitasking. If you can sit back and read a magazine while cycling, you may not put forth the same level of effort. With an upright bike, riders have to focus on their position and exertion, leading to more intense focus and thus more intense exercise.

Others experience a somewhat opposite scenario, in which being more comfortable allows them to exercise harder. Because the recumbent bike feels more inviting, they can work out at a greater intensity or work out longer, burning more calories.

Making Any Stationary Bike Work For You

Wherever you land when it comes to a recumbent bike vs. an upright bike, both can offer a good workout to help you burn calories and lose weight.

You can increase your effort to burn more calories by increasing your intensity. The more intense your exercise, the greater its impact. You can also set the resistance on both types of bike to make a workout harder.

However, regardless of the type of bike or your workout style, be sure to exercise for at least half an hour. Cycle for at least 45 minutes up to an hour or two to burn more fat. You can also try high-intensity interval training to alternate between those bursts of high-intensity cycling and cool down periods. This is best on an upright bike versus a recumbent bike.

If you choose a recumbent bike for its comfort and stability, you can still burn just as many calories as you would on an upright bike depending on the intensity of your workout, but do not fall into the trap of treating your workout as a relaxing time to sit back and multitask. If you focus on the exercise and push yourself safely, those calories will melt away.

Alternatively, given that one’s hands are free on a recumbent bicycle, consider adding an arm workout. Recumbent bikers can incorporate upper arm routines into their movements so you can hit leg day and arm day at the same time.

Whether you are looking for a recumbent bike or an upright bike, you can find some great deals on exercise bikes for sale online. Now that you have some additional information on which exercise bike would better fit your needs and style, don’t hesitate to start that first step to reach your fitness goals.

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