The 7 Benefits Of Recumbent Bikes: What Makes Them Good?

Have you been eying that recumbent bike but you’re not sure what the benefits are? Here are 7 amazing things a recumbent bike can do for you.

What does a recumbent bike do for your body? There are 7 things exercising on a recumbent bike does;

  1. Improve your cardiovascular health
  2. Improve your endurance
  3. Help you lose body fat
  4. Help you tone your legs
  5. The option to multitask and get smarter
  6. It’s easy on your lower back
  7. It’s easy on your joints

Most of these points are pretty self-explanatory but there are some details and explanations that are not as obvious as you might think. Keep reading to find out more.

1.    Improve your cardiovascular health

The first benefit is fairly obvious since it’s what recumbent bikes are designed to do. They’re designed to improve your cardiovascular health.

To use a recumbent or any other bike, you have to push the pedals with your legs. The legs are the largest muscle group in the body. That means when you use them, the muscle cells require a lot of oxygen and energy. At the same time, waste products like lactic acid and co2 need to be taken out of the muscle.  

All those things are transported in your blood. Blood is pumped around by your heart, the most important part of your cardiovascular system.

When you use your muscles hard, they require more blood to transport everything than when you’re resting. Because of this, your heart has to beat faster and harder when doing exercise than when resting.

Just like other muscles, you train your heart by making it do something it’s not quite comfortable with (but not too much either). It’s not possible to control your heart directly like you can with your arms for example. That’s a good thing since you really don’t want to forget using your heart for a bit. Your brain controls your heart rate without you having much control over it. Your brain tells your heart how fast to beat based on what’s required at that moment.

And there we have the reason we need special machines or activities to improve our cardio. We need to create circumstances where our brain tells our heart to beat faster and therefore improve. Those circumstances are created by using your muscles.

A recumbent bike is a great tool for improving your cardio since it’s very approachable for a big group of people and quite safe. More about that safety later on.

Recumbent bikes are amazing for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) This is a great way to burn more calories in a short period of time and also improve your cardiovascular health. 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 setup for any workout a breeze.

Suggested: Is 30 minutes on an exercise bike enough to see results?

Are you looking for a recumbent bike that can provide you all of these benefits for a very good price? Click here to find out my favorite recumbent bike for home gyms.

2.    Train your endurance

You might think endurance is the same thing as cardiovascular health but while it’s related, it’s not the same thing. Cardio is just about your heart. And while it’s very important that your heart can keep up with your muscles, it’s not the only aspect of endurance. There are a few others;

  • VO2 max. V02 max is defined as the maximal volume of oxygen that the body can deliver to the muscles per minute. With training on an exercise bike or other cardio machine, you’ll start to improve this measurement. You’ll be able to A. breathe more B. Use the oxygen more efficiently in your muscles. This means you can go for longer and harder without running out of breath.
  • Mental endurance. Knowing you can keep going and pushing through the discomfort is a huge part of endurance. Most people give up when it gets a little bit difficult. But if you train to push through your discomfort little by little, you’ll discover that you’re capable of much more than you thought.

While VO2max is related to cardiovascular health it’s not exactly the same mechanism. The training of the two goes hand in hand since they try to accomplish similar goals of delivering something to the muscles.

Mental endurance is an awesome skill to have in anything you encounter in life. How many more things can you accomplish and succeed at if you’d keep going a little bit longer even though it’s hard and uncomfortable? Nobody knows how many things exactly but I’m sure it’s more than if you wouldn’t persevere.

3.    Helps you lose body fat

The most important part of losing body weight is the energy balance. That means you have to put fewer calories in your body than you use throughout the day. While there are many, many more factors that are important to weight loss and fat burning, the energy balance is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Not sure if you can safely use a recumbent bike? Click here to find the weight limits of 22 popular recumbent bikes.

Where a recumbent bike can help is creating that energy deficit. For example; you eat 2000 Kcal on a day. Your body will use energy for just staying alive and daily activities. Let’s say that’s also 2000 Kcal. In that situation, you won’t lose or gain weight since there is no surplus or deficit of energy in your body.

Now let’s say you eat the same but add a workout to this that uses 300 Kcal. Suddenly you have a 300 Kcal deficit. This will make you lose weight over time.

So can you say using a recumbent bike makes you lose body weight? Not directly but it can certainly help you create the energy deficit that will in turn allow your body to burn fat and lose weight.

It’s very difficult to say how many calories you burn using a recumbent bike. Just like it’s very difficult to say how many calories doing other things burns. It depends on your current body weight, training level, age, gender, etc. It’s easier to say which type of workout is the most effective for the same person at the same body weight and even then it’s an approximation.

If you’re interested, here is a list of workouts by efficiency.

Here’s the list from;

Calories/30 min
Cycling (any)250-500
Rock climbing380
Cross-country skiing330
Elliptical 300
For 145 lbs./ 65kg person
Numbers are an approximation and ultimately depends on intensity.

As you can see biking can be an average to a great workout, efficiency-wise.  There are activities that use more energy but most of them are activities you can’t really do at home. It’s up to par with running, rowing, and an elliptical machine. However, in the end, it’s all up to how hard you push yourself.

A major benefit of a recumbent bike over those other workouts is that you can do them comfortably for longer. Of course, it’s personal preference and people are built differently but many people have an easier time on a bike than a treadmill. If both burn 300 Kcal per 30 minutes but one you can do for an hour and the other only for 15 minutes, you obviously burn more calories in 1 hour which is better.

Because there are so many differences in resistance you can set on a stationary or recumbent bike, it’s still hard to give anything more than a ballpark number.

Don’t think you can use the calorie counter in the machine either. While it’s probably more accurate than the numbers given here, it’s still an approximation for the average person since the machine doesn’t know anything about you.

Suggested: Can you lose belly fat by only using an exercise bike?

Image of a woman pinching belly fat

4.    Can help tone your leg muscles

Ok, maybe you won’t grow any hulk legs but most people don’t really want that anyways. If you’re a beginner, the resistance a recumbent bike provides for your leg muscles can build a nice bit of muscle for beginners.

Here is a more in-depth explanation about which muscles you use on a recumbent bike.

The biggest muscles you use on a recumbent bike are your;

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

Your calves and Tibialis anterior are used to a lesser degree but still get a decent training impulse if they’re not developed yet.

Besides those bigger muscles, there are a lot of smaller, stabilizing muscles in your legs and hips that play a role in working out on a recumbent bike. Even your abs have a role to play in stabilizing your hips and lower back and although small, will have an effect over time.

That said, after the beginning stages of your training, the muscle-building effects will wear off. You can expect it to last about 3-4 months and after that, the size will stay the same. If you want your legs or a part of your legs to develop any further, you’ll have to find different exercises that provide more resistance.

A recumbent bike is built for cardio exercise but if you want to push towards muscle building a little bit more, try to use a higher resistance than you usually would but for a shorter duration. Resistance is a stronger muscle-building impulse than the duration in general.

Alternatively, you could implement a HIIT protocol where you use very high resistance for up to a minute and light resistance in between. This way you could treat those sprints like weightlifting sets. When you lift weights, you don’t lift the same weights for an hour straight. You do a set and rest in between. This way you can lift much heavier weights. Why not adapt the same strategy to your bike sessions? This way you combine the muscle-building effects and cardio workout into one.

5.    Gives you time to get smarter

Ok, maybe this isn’t an effect on your body per se but you can improve your brain and your brain is in your body (I hope) so it counts.

A recumbent bike is one of the best forms of cardio to multitask with. The other activity can be reading or listening or possibly something else. Listening to an informative audiobook, podcast or reading something can improve your life while you’re improving your health.

  • You’re in a relatively comfortable position. The seat of a recumbent bike has a backrest.
  • Most recumbent bikes have a little shelf or holder where you can put a device or book.
  • Your upper body barely moves. This is by far the thing that makes a recumbent bike suitable for multitasking. Headphones don’t fall out or get caught in something. It’s easier to focus on reading since your eyes don’t have to move so much etc. Compared to an elliptical, treadmill or rower, multitasking is much easier on a recumbent bike.
  • There’s no impact noise that makes it hard to hear other things.

Of course, it depends on how intense your workout is. If you’re at 90% of your HRR, it’ll be difficult to think about anything else than your burning muscles. Many people don’t do cardio at that intensity, however. They prefer to do more steady-state cardio that has a lower intensity but for a longer duration.

Especially during cardio sessions that take up to an hour or maybe even more, it’s great if you can do something else at the same time. How much smarter would you be if 5 times a week, you spend time learning new information? It would give you a pretty big benefit in your work and daily life over others. Sure you can just watch cartoons on TV and while that might make you feel good, it won’t really give you any more knowledge you can use in life.

So why not do two things that are good for you at the same time? And that’s the easiest on a recumbent bike.

Are you not sure if you can fit an exercise bike in your home gym? Click here to find out about how big they are.

6.    Is easy on your lower back

Image of a man with low back pain

Compared to an upright exercise bike, a recumbent bike puts a lot less stress on your lower back. On an upright bike, you are bent over quite a bit. This can stretch out your hamstrings and can force your lower back into bad posture if you don’t have the best flexibility.

If your discs are not in tip-top condition anymore, it’s better not to take any risks that could do any further damage. No workout is worth lasting back pain. A recumbent bike by design puts you into a position that puts less stress on your lower back and reduces the risk of creating further injuries.

The benefit of being more bent over is that you can produce a bit more power because of the angles of your legs. While that might matter if you’re riding on the street, if you are just doing a cardio workout it doesn’t matter that much since you can adjust the resistance.

A recumbent bike also has a backrest so you can basically fully relax and just use your leg muscles. A correctly designed backrest will also provide lumbar support so you have to worry less about keeping your low back in the correct posture. When you get tired it’s very easy to forget to keep your lower back in a safe position and the backrest can help you prevent it from going into a posture that can hurt you.

So for people with lower back problems or just don’t like being bent over, a recumbent bike is a great option.

Also, the seats on recumbent bikes are much more comfortable so it’s easier to sit on it for longer. Your training won’t translate as well onto a road bike as with an upright bike but if you’re just using it to get a good workout, it doesn’t matter.

7.    Doesn’t hurt your joints

One of the big advantages of a recumbent bike over other forms of cardio workout is the impact. The way a recumbent bike works means that there is very minimal impact on your hips, knees, and ankles while also not impacting your spine in any meaningful way.

When you run on a treadmill, for example, your joints and spine have to absorb an impact with every stride. This can cause irritation, pain, and injuries over time.

Because a recumbent bike has a rotating movement, there is no ‘landing’ impact like on a treadmill or when running. That hit when you hit the belt of the treadmill might not seem like much. The belt is damped and super comfortable, right?

Well, think about it like this, how many strides do you take in an hour on a treadmill? Let’s say 80 per minute. That’s 4,800 per hour. If you run 4 hours per week, that’s 19,200 strides a week. Now multiply this by, months or even years. You just need a tiny vulnerability or form breakdown and over time this will take its toll.

On a recumbent bike, you don’t have those problems and therefore it’s easier to keep doing over a long period of time. However some people just simply prefer other forms of cardio.

Are you looking for a recumbent bike that can provide you all of these benefits for a very good price? Click here to find out my favorite recumbent bike for home gyms.

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.
  • 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.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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