As with many forms of physical activity, exercise bikes offer a cardiovascular workout that can burn fat, tone muscles, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve lung function. However, exercise bikes also might offer an especially attractive benefit for people who have neck and back pain caused by spinal stenosis, facet disease, arthritis of the spine or spondylolisthesis. What benefit, you ask? Exercise bikes are a low-impact workout option that, in most instances, will not exert painful pressure on the vertebrae, intervertebral discs and facet joints of the spine.
Using an exercise bike to mitigate back pain
If your physician has cleared you to begin an exercise bike program, the first step is deciding which type of exercise bike you would like to use: upright or recumbent. Generally, people who are used to riding a bike on a road enjoy the upright version, but if back pain limits your ability to bend forward over the handlebars, a recumbent bike may be a better choice for you. Many of the recumbent bike seats are ergonomically designed and offer excellent lumbar support. Handles also offer a comfortable place to rest your hands. The latest bike models include sensors that monitor heart rate, calories burned, miles per hour and resistance level.
Finding your target heart rate on an exercise bike
Not sure what a healthy target heart rate (THR) should be? Most exercise bikes will calculate this for you if you enter your age and weight. However, being able to calculate your own THR is an invaluable skill that allows you to gauge whether your exercise regimen is too strenuous or not strenuous enough.
- For the purposes of the examples below, let’s imagine we’re calculating the THR of a 35-year-old individual.
- First, let’s start with writing down a resting heart rate (RHR) when you first wake up in the morning. Our 35-year-old example has an RHR of 75 (RHR will generally be between 60 and 100).
- Next, subtract your age from 220 (220 – 35 = 185).
- Then subtract your RHR from that number (185 – 75 = 110).
- Multiply the result by 0.60 and add your RHR (110 × 0.60 + 75 = 141), then do the same with 0.70 (110 × 0.70 + 75 = 152).
- 141 BPM (beats per minute) is your low-end THR (suitable for warming up) and 152 BPM is your high-end THR, which is what you should strive for at the peak of your workout.
However, keep in mind that an exercise regimen should never be attempted without a physician’s supervision. It could be dangerous for patients with cardiovascular problems or other issues to exercise at a high intensity. Also, if you have neck or back pain due to herniated disc, bulging disc or bone spurs, your physician may advise you to lower the intensity of the workout.