No gym is complete without its indoor cycling studio and spinning bikes, often accompanied by pumping techno music and an instructor hollering at the class. Spinning, or group indoor cycling, promises to burn fat and boost strength and endurance as you power through virtual sprints, hill climbs and headwinds - all without having to actually go outdoors.
Does it deliver?Generally, riding on a stationary bike isn’t as good as the real thing. On the other hand, in a cycling class you get the added benefit of a coach pushing you harder than you might otherwise go cycling alone. Outdoors can be quite strenuous, but it is more self-paced. Face it, the instructors keep their following by motivating people, so spinning classes tend to be at the upper end of the intensity continuum. It has also been found that spinning class participants regularly exceeded their maximum aerobic capacity for short periods – so were working very hard. Spinning should make you fitter and burn lots of calories.
If you want to get fit, but never have time, then HIIT (high intensity interval training) might seem the perfect solution. The idea is to alternate very short (30 second) bursts of extremely intense aerobic exercise with slower recovery periods. This is claimed to produce the same benefits as more conventional aerobic exercise (such as running or cycling) for far longer.
One idea is that HIIT is better at depleting the glycogen – or sugar stores – in your muscles, than regular exercise. If you start breaking down this glycogen on a regular basis, the theory is your muscles will get better at taking glucose up from the bloodstream, and this could reduce your risk of diabetes.
Does it deliver?
A team found that interspersing 10 minutes of easy peddling on a stationary bike with two “all-out” 20-second sprints can achieve the same health benefits as a 45-minute run or cycle ride. Even better, this seems to suppress appetite, unlike more conventional exercise which makes you hungrier.
To do this, you need to find a static bike that lets you switch the resistance from really low, to really high, extremely quickly. Alternatively, look for a steep hill – ideally with a downward slope immediately before it. The key is to get your legs moving as quickly as possible before you hit the sudden increase in intensity – and then you need to keep on peddling as hard as you can for another 20 seconds. Runners could also try the same thing on foot.