2018-10-11 / Around Town

Stay Fit with ‘Spinning’

By Kristin Matteson

The stationary exercise bike has been a staple of fitness programs as long as most people can remember. But even though the benefits of exercise for older adults are well known, many of those stationary bikes are collecting dust. One reason is that riding a bike at home alone is boring. That’s why there are virtues in exercising with a group.

Group indoor cycling classes, also known as spinning, provide motivation, encouragement and accountability that isn’t available when you’re alone at home with your stationary bike. Trained indoor cycling instructors will help you set up your bike, teach proper technique and help maximize your workout by guiding you through endurance, strength and interval training. Most classes are set to upbeat music, and some instructors will guide you through a class that simulates actual geography and imaginary scenery.

The new special indoor cycles are designed to closely simulate riding a road bike and are more adjustable to ensure better body mechanics and prevent injury.

An indoor cycling class keeps the participant’s heart rate elevated long enough to reap cardiovascular benefits such as lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and improving lung function. Most indoor cycles have computers that can link to individual heart monitors to maximize the cardiovascular benefit.

The fact that the bicycle is stationary eliminates the risk of falling off a road bike for older adults with balance or vertigo issues. Cycling indoors eliminates the risk of inattentive motorists, inclement weather and uncontrollable road surfaces.

For those with arthritis, back pain or other orthopedic issues, indoor cycling offers a high-intensity workout with little impact on joints, tendons and ligaments.

Indoor cycling provides resistance pedaling, thus building muscle endurance in the lower body that can improve the ability to participate in activities of daily living. The resisted pedaling can also improve tendon, ligament and bone health in the legs.

Older adults often find it difficult to burn calories and control their weight due to mobility issues. A typical high-intensity indoor cycling class can burn 400 to 600 calories.

A good indoor cycling class will encourage the participants to control the resistance and cadence (pedal speed) to meet their individual needs and limitations.

Regular aerobic exercise reduces stress and improves mental health. This is important to many older adults who are experiencing changing lifestyles and life roles as a part of the aging process.

Before arriving for a class, drink plenty of water and bring a towel, because you’ll be working up a sweat. Once there, don’t be intimidated by the other participants; they will be too busy pedaling, breathing and sweating to notice what you are doing.

Indoor cycling instructors should be skilled at delivering a class that meets the needs of all the class participants.

Bike seats are uncomfortable at first. Be sure to position your “sit bones” on the widest part of the seat. The discomfort will ease after several classes as your legs become stronger and support more of your weight while pedaling. If this remains a problem, there are special bike shorts with padded seats available at most sporting goods stores.

Finally, always consult with your doctor or health care practitioner before participating in any new physical activity or exercise program, especially if you have medical or orthopedic conditions.

Kristin Matteson received her certification in teaching indoor cycling classes from Madd Dog Athletics and has completed continuing education in “Spinning for Active Older Adults.” She teaches indoor cycling locally and is also an Occupational Therapist at Newport Hospital.

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