Indoor cycling is considered as an aerobic exercise which is proven to help you lose body fat. It can burn between 350-600 calories, depending on your weight, the intensity of your workout, age, and other factors.
Sounds great right? But what if I tell you that we can tweak how we do indoor cycling to help us burn even more calories?
How to burn more calories when indoor cycling? Do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to maximize your calorie burn. Strength training exercises also help you burn more calories.
HIIT has been popular for quite some time now. You might have encountered HIIT fitness videos that usually involve floor exercises. Indoor cycling can also be turned into a HIIT workout.
What is HIIT?
There are two main things you have to remember for HIIT: high-intensity, and interval.
When we say high-intensity exercise, it means that you are giving your near full effort for the activity.
But how do you know if the efforts already count as high-intensity?
One way to determine the intensity of physical activity is by knowing your maximum heart rate and target heart rate.
For high-intensity exercises, the target heart rate is 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
To get your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Your target heart rate is at least 70% of that number.
If you are 40 years old, this will be the computation to get your target heart rate: (220-40) x 7 = 126.
It helps to use a heart rate monitor or a fitness band to be able to know if you are reaching your target heart rate.
If you don’t have a heart monitor, a talk test is another way to gauge whether you are doing a high-intensity workout or not.
When you have reached high-intensity, you will be only able to say a few words at a time.
The next thing I will discuss is about intervals.
In HIIT, you alternate short bursts of high-intensity aerobic exercise with moderate-intensity exercise or recovery period. This is repeated depending on the length of the workout.
A typical high-intensity period lasts 30 to 90 seconds depending on your capacity.
The recovery period also depends on your ability, but the common ratio of high intensity to moderate intensity is 1:2.
For beginners, they can have longer recovery periods and gradually decrease them for their succeeding workouts.
Those who have been doing HIIT for some time can target a 1:1 ratio.
HIIT is very popular because it is said to continue to burn calories long after the workout.
But is the hype real?
While some claims surrounding HIIT are somewhat exaggerated (e.g. afterburn happens for 24 hours), more recent studies which use more accurate measurements point that afterburn does happen. Only, the effect lasts around two to three hours.
Please note though that the calories you burn after HIIT is only around 6-15% of the total burn during the exercise.
Don’t feel bad though. That’s better than what you would get after a regular aerobic exercise which is less than 6%.
Also, you will burn a little more fat (around 28.5%) doing HIIT than a regular aerobic exercise according to a meta-analysis of several studies in the past.
The above numbers don’t seem that much though, given all the hype surrounding HIIT. Especially that many people get into HIIT precisely for the promise of significant calorie burn and fat loss.
Having said that, HIIT still a great way to work out since it is proven to burn more calories. But we only need to be realistic about it what it can do.
The good news is, there are more reasons why you should do HIIT.
- Numerous studies have shown that HIIT can improve your overall heart health.
- It may help decrease blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals who are prehypertensive.
- It is more time-efficient. You can workout for a shorter time and still get the same (or a little bit more) benefits of a regular workout.
- HIIT may improve your insulin sensitivity. Those who have low sensitivity to insulin may get diabetes later if not managed properly.
- HIIT may help improve your cholesterol levels.
How to do a HIIT cycling workout?
As with all exercises, it is important to do warm-ups to condition your body before you push yourself to the limits.
Warm-ups before an exercise will improve blood circulation, raise your body temperature, and reduce the risk of injury.
You can do warm-ups off or on the bike. If you want a bit of variety, you may want to do off the bike warm-up exercise.
It is also important to cool down after your intervals to slowly return your heart rate to normal. A sudden drop in heart rate may cause you to become dizzy.
A whole HIIT routine can be around 20 to 40 minutes. Fitness experts recommend doing HIIT for two to three times a week for optimum benefit.
Sample HIIT cycling workout
Start cycling using the lowest resistance and pedal easy for 10 minutes.
Then adjust to higher resistance and pedal as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds.
Dial down the resistance and put in a moderate effort on your pedaling for 60 seconds.
Repeat the process for 12 intervals.
Bike at a leisurely pace for four minutes after your final interval to cool down.
If you want more variety and challenge for your workout, you can check out YouTube for more HIIT indoor cycling workouts. Also, you can install bike training apps on your mobile device and choose HIIT based on your level.
How else can you increase your calorie burn?
Apart from HIIT, it is also important to incorporate strength training in your exercise program.
You will burn more calories while doing cardio exercises than while doing weights. However, strength training can help you burn more calories in the long run.
How? Regular strength training helps you build muscles. Muscles are metabolically active which means they burn more calories when in a resting state. Thus, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
Already excited to lift weights to finally rid yourself of the excess flab? Great! But be sure to manage your expectations accordingly.
Remember that building your muscles doesn’t happen overnight. Other factors may also affect how you burn your calories when you are at rest, like your weight, age, daily activities, and others.
So the key factor here is consistency. One strength training session is not enough to transform your body.
Experts recommend doing strength training for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week on non-consecutive days (to give time for recovery of muscles).
It is also important to target all major muscle groups to reap the full benefits of strength training.
I know it can be hard to begin and maintain an exercise program. So below is the list of other benefits of strength training to keep you motivated.
- According to the American College of Sports Medicine, strength training can help maintain muscle mass which tends to decrease as we age.
- Regular strength training can also help prevent osteoporosis.
- Strength training can boost your mood
- It can help reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
To get the most out of your indoor cycling, I recommend HIIT and strength training.
HIIT burns slightly more calories than a regular aerobic exercise. The afterburn effect of HIIT is also slightly greater than the usual cardio.
But what is best about HIIT is that you can do it for a short time and still get more benefits than a longer steady aerobic workout.
Strength training burns fewer calories compared to HIIT and cardio during the actual exercise. But it will help you build your muscles which burn more calories at rest.
Also, HIIT and strength training have numerous benefits beyond burning calories so you will have a lot to gain in doing these exercises.
I want to get the best of both worlds. Can I do strength training while indoor cycling? No. Experts caution against doing strength training while on your bike as this could lead to injury in the long run.
Should I do stretching exercises too? Yes. Stretching may not matter that much for weight loss, but it can help you keep your muscles flexible and strong. It also helps improve your range of motion which is important not only when cycling but for daily activities as well.