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The Stationary exercise bike is a very compact and relatively cheap cardio machine. For that reason it’s attractive to get one for your home gym. But is a stationary bike effective in reducing belly fat?
Cycling on a stationary bike is an effective tool for lowering the body fat percentage and therefore reducing the size of your belly. Using the elliptical for 30-45 minutes 5-6 days a week at medium intensity will visibly start reducing your belly size after 4-6 weeks if combined with a good diet.
What makes a stationary exercise bike effective at reducing belly fat and what are some things you should know to make your exercise time effective? Keep reading to find out.
Does Cycling On An Exercise Bike Make You Lose Belly Fat?
Belly fat is fat. It’s not any different than fat in other places on your body except that it’s even less welcome. However, the way to get rid of belly fat is the same as the way to lose body fat in other places. You can’t choose to reduce the amount of fat only in certain places; it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all about burning calories and as a result burning fat. When you eat fewer calories than you burn throughout the day, your body burns fat to make up the difference. Where that fat is taken from depends on age, gender, hormone balance and genetics.
An exercise bike used right is an effective way to burn calories and therefore lower your body fat if combined with a proper diet. As said above, you can’t just burn fat in your belly. There is no type of exercise that does that and it’s all about overall body fat.
The belly is actually the last place your body burns the fat from, especially if you’re male. Females tend to store more fat in the glutes and thighs areas and the belly fat disappears a little earlier. Either way, it doesn’t matter and to reduce belly fat, you’ll have to lower your overall body fat percentage, there is no way you can do anything to burn your belly fat earlier than your body decides, no matter what type of exercise you do.
Burning more calories what you eat will lower your body fat percentage over time. Lowering your body fat percentage will ultimately translate into reduced belly fat. To actually lose a significant amount of belly fat, you’ll have to stick to your workout routine for a while but this is the same as any other type of exercise.
Cycling on an exercise bike for 30-45 minutes a day at moderate to high intensity for 5 days a week is a good goal to shoot for to significantly reduce your body fat levels. However, to lose a good amount of weight, combining working out with a balanced and nutritious diet is very important to get the results you want.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Is a great way to burn more calories in a short period of time. A good interval timer is going to make HIIT workouts much more enjoyable. Check out the GymNext Flex timer. It’s super easy to set up and control contrary to most other interval timers making the set up for any workout a breeze.
So what makes an exercise bike a good choice to burn calories and lose weight?
What Makes A Stationary Bike A Good Machine To Lose Belly Fat?
There are plenty of other cardio machines that can all burn calories. So what makes an exercise bike a good choice? There are a few things that make an exercise bike unique.
- Compact: The exercise bike, except for recumbent bikes, are pretty compact. They’re the smallest popular cardio equipment which makes them easy to put somewhere at home. Spin bikes are also relatively light and easy to move around so they don’t take up a lot of space in your house.
- Affordable: A decent exercise bike can be bought for much less than a decent rower, treadmill or elliptical. Sure, on the high end you can still find very expensive ones but there are solid options that don’t break the bank.
- Low impact: Of course you use your leg muscles a lot while cycling. However, your feet never leave the pedals so there is no impact. It’s a smooth circular motion. That means there is no big impact on your joints and spine like on a treadmill. That means you recover from workouts faster and have less injury risk which means you can work out longer and more days a week.
- Many types: There are quite a few different types of exercise bikes that have different seating positions and purposes. A spin bike is suitable for very high intensity workouts while recumbent bikes has a relaxed seating position and are great for low-medium intensity workouts.
Using an exercise bike at moderate intensity will burn about 250 calories every 30 minutes (although this also depends on your weight). This isn’t the highest but not far off the treadmill and rower. It’s a bit less than an elliptical trainer though.
If you’re not looking to buy a machine yourself and are working out in a gym with many different cardio machines, take a look at the Elliptical and Rower as well as the classic treadmill. The elliptical burns more calories per minute which makes your workouts more time efficient and is also a low impact machine. The rower burns roughly the same amount of calories as an exercise bike but just like the elliptical, it’s a full body workout. That means you get some modest muscle and strength gains in the upper body from your cardio workout.
If you’re planning on working out 5-6 days a week, I’m not a fan of the treadmill. Because you have the impact of the footfall on the belt with every stride, you get more stress on the joints and spine. That can lead to
And that last sentence is the key: What do you enjoy the most? The best type of exercise you’ll do the most often and have the easiest time doing consistently. It doesn’t matter that much if one type of exercise burns a few calories more per minute if you get bored and sick of it after 5 minutes. If you have access to a big gym, just go there for a month and use all the different machines for a week and see what you like best.
How Long To Use An Exercise Bike To Lose Belly Fat?
So how long do you have to work out on a stationary bike to start losing belly fat? As you can read above, it all has to do with how many calories you burn and your overall body fat percentage.
Using an exercise bike for 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week at medium intensity is enough to start losing 2 kg/4.4 lbs. a month provided your diet is also in order. You will see your belly start shrinking after 4-6 weeks.
The first thing you should understand is the energy balance. To lose weight, you should take in fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. It’s very simple but not easy. That means you have to improve your diet as well as use your elliptical regularly. How many calories you take in depends on what and how much you eat. How many calories you burn depends on: Age, weight, muscle mass, gender and activity
Cycling for 30 minutes at moderate intensity on a stationary bike burns about 250 calories. Of course the exact number depends on how heavy you are and the intensity you work out at. The heavier you are the more calories you burn in 30 minutes. Also, the higher the intensity, the more calories you burn per minute. On an exercise bike the intensity can be increased by increasing speed and resistance.
Heart rate is a good indicator of intensity. Moderate intensity is usually defined as having a heart rate 50-70% of maximum heart rate while high intensity is about 70-85% of maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate depends on your age. If your exercise bike doesn’t have a built in heart rate monitor, it’s a good idea to get a separate one.
1 kg/2.2 lbs. of fat contains about 7700 kcal. If you eat 500 calories fewer a day than you use, your body will burn 1 kilo/2.2 lbs. of fat every 15 days. A 500 calorie deficit is about the maximum deficit you want to aim for unless otherwise advised by a healthcare professional. For most people a 500 calorie deficit is sustainable for an extended period of time and is therefore more effective long term than a bigger deficit. A 500 calorie deficit means you lose about 2 kg/4.4 lbs. a month.
Working out for 30-45 minutes a day is very doable (although it’s a good idea to take one or two rest days a week). 30 minutes of moderate exercise on an exercise bike burns about 250 calories (for the average person) but you want a 500 calorie deficit, how do you make up for the 250 calorie difference? Simple, you have to eat fewer calories.
You’ll have to figure out how many calories you burn without exercise. This is called the Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) Click here for a calculator. So if your BMR is 2000 calories, you want to eat 1750 calories and cycle long/hard enough to burn 250 calories to create a 500 calorie deficit that will result in losing 2 kg/4.4 lbs. a month. Of course if you cycle for 45 minutes, you’ll burn about 375 calories which means you could eat a bit more food.
According to Harvard Health, a 155 lbs. person burns 252 calories every 30 minutes while working out at moderate intensity on a stationary bike. At high intensity that same person burns 289 calories per 30 minutes.(Source)
More exercise has other benefits besides burning calories like: Improved cardiovascular health, mental benefits, improved digestion, improved blood pressure and more.
Cycling for 30-45 minutes for 5-6 days a week will have a big impact on reducing belly size and is safe and sustainable. However, it’s still necessary to take care of your diet and energy intake. Without a proper diet, it’s hard to lose weight by just working out.
How to Reduce Belly Size Faster
The basics of belly fat loss are the same as other fat loss. It’s just that for most people, belly fat is the last place where the fat actually starts to go away. Especially for men the belly is a place where fat is stored and is hard to get rid of. While cycling is a great way to burn calories and so reduce body fat. However, there are some other ways to make your belly appear smaller.
You can’t reduce fat in a certain location. What you can do is lower your overall body fat percentage. It’s mainly up to your genetics where you lose fat first and last. Some people have an easier time getting rid of extra pounds on the belly than others. Some people will lose almost all the fat anywhere else on their body before starting to reduce belly fat while for other people it’s more even. It isn’t fair but you’ll have to play the hand you’re dealt.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else about the overall size of your belly. While the fat on top of your abs is a huge factor in how big it looks, it isn’t the only one. The other factors are core strength, muscle mass, diet and bloating.
If you’ve got a weak core, and especially Transversus Abdominus muscle, you can make your tummy appear smaller by training this separately. The Transversus Abdominus is a muscle that lies under the muscles that create the 6-pack look. It’s the muscle you use when trying to pull your belly button towards your spine. Strengthening this muscle can pull your belly in without consciously doing this. This will make your belly appear flatter.
Cycling, especially with more bent over types of stationary bike you’ll engage your core a little bit. However, that’s not enough by itself to get a really strong core. It’s helpful to train your core separately though. Here’s a good place to start. With an elliptical you’re not specifically targeting the Transversus Abdominus specifically so you’ll have to do some extra exercises. Do some core exercises after finishing your running and you’ll compound your effects.
Another issue that makes your stomach look bigger is bloating. Many people are intolerant to certain foods without even knowing it. This can cause bloating which makes you feel worse than you could and gives your stomach a distended look. It can be worth it to experiment with eliminating different foods from your diet to see if you can improve this problem.
Exercise by itself can also help reduce bloating because it helps improve digestion but if it’s still a problem while exercising regularly, it’s worth investigating further.
There are lots of resources on bloating and diet. You can start here on WebMD
Combining cardio exercise with strength training is a winning combination. Not only for weight loss but also your physique and overall health. The two complement each other in the best way. Building strength and muscle obviously makes your muscles bigger. That alone will make you look more athletic. It also does a few other things:
- Bigger muscles mean the potential to burn more calories. It means you can push the pedals on your bike harder and work out at a higher resistance. That will burn more calories.
- An increase in muscle mass raises your BMR. So having more muscle means you burn more calories without even using them.
- Bigger muscles in other parts of your body will make your belly look smaller by comparison.
Also, doing something else than cycling can break up the monotony of doing the same thing day after day. There is an almost countless amount of strength training exercises with a very wide range of equipment that can make your workouts different and more interesting. And on top of that you get better and faster results than if you’d only run.
I’ve mentioned the amount of calories you eat as an important factor in weight loss above. However, just looking at the calories alone doesn’t tell the whole story. To have good workouts every day, you want to give your body the right fuel.
There is an endless amount of words to write about diet but let’s keep it simple. You want to eat the right ratio of macronutrients (carbs, protein and fats) from mostly whole foods. Aiming to eat 80% whole foods is a good goal and has a big impact for most people.
Also, most people underestimate how many calories they drink. Cutting out soda and fancy coffee drinks and replacing them with water/black coffee/tea can save a few hundred calories a day.
Can Cycling Alone Get You Visible Abs?
Ok, you can reduce the size of your belly by cycling and changing your diet, but can you get visible abs? Visible 6-pack abs are something that many want but few achieve. Can a stationary bike alone get you there?
To get visible abs you need two things;
- A low enough body fat percentage
- Abdominal muscles that are big enough to pop out
Cardiovascular exercise is great at burning calories which helps you to lower body fat. Combined with a good diet and consistent workout schedule, you’ll get your body fat percentage low enough to actually get to the point where you can easily see a 6-pack. To have visible abs, men need a body fat percentage +-15% or lower while women need to be under +-20%. Combining an improved diet with regular medium to high intensity treadmill is going to get you there.
The second part is that the ab muscles that create the 6-pack have to be big enough to actually see. While running does engage the core to some degree, it’s not very effective for building up the muscle you want to see grow (the Rectus Abdominis).
So to get to your 6-pack, you’ll have to do some other exercises besides rowing that specifically target the Rectus Abdominis. The following movements are good to start off with;
- Hanging leg raises
- Leg raises
Basically any movement that brings your chest to your legs or legs to your chest will use this muscle.
Cycling on a stationary bike is a tool to help you get visible 6-pack abs. It’s a very effective machine for burning calories and therefore lowering body fat percentage. However, you’ll still have to have a good diet and do separate ab exercises to grow the 6-pack muscles enough to really make them easily visible.
Favorite Cardio Accessories
Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:
- Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high-quality choice.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and workouts, there is no better choice than the GymNext Flex. It’s super easy to use and set up with a phone app.
- Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
- Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.
To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.