The last time you visited your senior parent or loved one, you were dismayed to learn they haven’t been getting regular exercise. You want them to be more active, which is why you’re considering buying them a stationary bike.
Is a stationary bike safe for seniors? A stationary bicycle offers an effective way for seniors to get more exercise. Unlike a traditional bike, a stationary exercise bike is used indoors so older people can ride regardless of weather. It also provides a low-impact workout and the senior is at less risk of falling.
So, why is biking a great way to stay healthy?
- walking for 30 minutes or cycling for 20 minutes on most days reduces mortality risk by at least 10%;
- active commuting is associated with about a 10% decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease and a 30% decrease in type 2 diabetes risk; and
- cancer-related mortality is 30% lower among bike commuters.
*We recommend that anyone who is beginning an exercise program check with their doctor before starting to be sure they are healthy enough for that type of exercise.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about stationary bikes for seniors.
We’ll talk more about the benefits of bike riding for seniors, compare an indoor cycling bike to a treadmill, and discuss how much exercise a senior needs, so keep reading.
Is Indoor Cycling Good For Seniors?
Indoor cycling, while it maybe lacks the sights, sounds, and fresh air that only the outdoors can provide, does have its perks. Per the intro, let’s talk about those advantages now.
Senior Citizens Can Ride Regardless Of The Weather
Not many people except the most hardcore bikers and those who need a bike to get from Point A to Point B are willing to ride in the rain.
When snowy weather strikes, even fewer bikers are out. Cycling is simply not safe in that type of weather.
With a stationary bike, older adults can’t use the weather as an excuse to skip an exercise session.
Whether it’s sunny, rainy, snowing, hailing, or some combination, indoor cycles mean that the senior can always ride.
This can help them create longer-term healthy habits as they get into a regular exercise routine.
Provides Low-Impact Cardio
Indoor cycling is considered low-impact aerobic exercise, which means it is a good option for getting a senior’s heart rate up without putting too much stress or strain on their joints.
As we age, seniors need to be mindful of the physical activities they engage in.
If they push themselves too hard, they could end up in pain for days afterward, not to mention the possible health risks of taking on a high impact exercise program.
This not only makes for an uncomfortable time for your senior parent or loved one, but it could further discourage them from wanting to exercise in the future. They’ll think the risks outweigh the health benefits.
Watching TV While Pedaling Makes Sessions Go Fast
Does your senior complain about exercising as they’ve gotten older? They probably don’t mind walking with you or another family member and chatting the whole time because it makes the exercise go by faster.
When they have to exercise alone though, that’s when they may decide to put off exercising for another time. It’s human nature to avoid something boring.
In that case, then a stationary bike is a great choice for them.
They can set up a TV in the same room as the exercise bike, angling the bike so they can watch their favorite show the entire time they’re riding.
Some types of exercise bikes come with a built-in LCD screen, which is a great option if they want to exercise in a room that doesn’t have a TV.
In that case, the person can ride while watching TV or following various workout programs. They can even watch YouTube or a streaming channel on their phone or tablet.
When anyone is distracted, exercise sessions will seem to take less time.
I often watch TV while walking on my treadmill or using my stationary bike, so I know that this can make 40 minutes of exercise feel like 20 minutes instead.
Less Risk Of Falling Compared To Riding A Real Bike
Your senior was big into cycling in their middle age for many years, but now you worry that if they were to ride a real bike, they could fall off at any time.
A stationary bike is not completely devoid of that risk, but there is a lot lower chance that a senior will fall.
The bike doesn’t move, so it won’t wobble. That stability should make a senior feel secure when riding. You’ll also enjoy the peace of mind of a stationary bike.
Is An Upright Or Recumbent Bike Better For Seniors?
A recumbent exercise bike is a good choice for seniors who want to get some exercise but have joint issues.
One of the main reasons why this type of bike is so popular among older adults is because they are relatively easy to use.
Additionally, many models come with features like an adjustable bike seat and adjustable pedals (as do many regular stationary bikes).
The main difference with a recumbent stationary bike is your body position.
Unlike a traditional upright bike where you have to balance yourself while pedaling, a recumbent bicycle has a backrest and is closer to the ground, making it easier to get on and off of.
Another reason why recumbent bikes might be a senior’s better option is because they are a more comfortable bike than upright ones.
The backrest provides support for your back, and the position of the pedals means less pressure on your knees.
And, because you’re not exerting yourself as much as you would be on an upright bike, you’re less likely to break out in a sweat.
Your heart rate won’t increase as much, which is beneficial for those with heart conditions
Recumbent bikes are also safer than other types of exercise equipment simply because of the aforementioned fact that they are lower to the ground and have a backrest.
This means that if you were to fall off of the bike, you wouldn’t fall as far or as hard as you would on an upright bike.
Which Is Better For Seniors, A Treadmill Or A Stationary Bike?
Let’s say you presented the idea of buying your senior parent or loved one a stationary bike but, to your surprise, they told you they’d rather get a treadmill.
Both pieces of exercise equipment certainly have their pros and cons, but which is better for older adults?
The answer is a stationary bike, and it’s the best option for a few reasons.
Seniors are already susceptible to fractures, sprains, and broken bones in their older age.
They shouldn’t engage in too much high-impact exercise, as this puts more strain on their joints and bones that could lead to the above injuries.
Running (or even walking) on a treadmill is higher impact than riding a bike. Each time your feet hit the rolling treadmill, you’re straining your joints.
After a round or two on the treadmill, your parent may begin complaining of lower back and/or knee pain.
Continuing to use the treadmill will only prolong and eventually worsen this pain.
Less Weight Bearing
Sitting on a stationary bike requires less weight bearing compared to running on a treadmill.
For the elderly with arthritis or bad knees, not having to carry their weight when exercising can be hugely beneficial in reducing pain and making exercise the beneficial activity it should be.
Takes Less Space In The House
While it absolutely does vary by model, treadmills are usually larger than exercise bikes. (They’re also typically more expensive).
Your senior might not have that much space in their home to spare for exercise equipment, so the more compact whatever you buy them is, the better.
Lower Risk Of Injury
Finally, stationary bikes have a lower injury risk, especially compared to a treadmill.
We want to reiterate our point from before, and that’s that stationary bikes are not completely injury risk free.
Someone can still fall if they get dizzy while cycling, and the tumble from the seat of the bike to the floor could lead to broken bones depending on the height of the bike and whether the floor is carpeted.
However, treadmills are even worse. We’ve all seen YouTube videos of people flying off treadmills.
Although these videos are usually presented in a humorous context, something of the sort could happen to anyone if they can’t keep up with the treadmill.
How Long Should Seniors Ride A Stationary Bike?
Now that your parent is interested in using it, how long per day should they ride the exercise bike?
It doesn’t have to be long. The goal is for each session to last for 20 or 30 minutes and for the senior to ride three to five days a week. That’s 150 minutes of exercise in all each week.
However, if your senior parent or loved one hasn’t exercised in a while, then that might be a tall order.
We’d recommend they work their way up to it. Riding a stationary bike will require the use of new muscles, and so for the first session, it should be kept very short, like 10 minutes or under.
Then, your parent might begin riding for 15 minutes, then eventually 20 minutes, then 25 minutes, and finally, up to 30 minutes.
The number of times they’re on the stationary bike per week should gradually increase over time as well.
At the start, it’s fine if they’re on the bike once a week, then twice a week, and so on.
Here are some other pointers to keep in mind:
- Their primary care physician should sign off on the increase in physical activity before your parent begins riding. Tell the physician how many times a week they plan to ride and for roughly how long.
- It’s always important to listen to their body. If they feel discomfort or pain when riding, they should not push through it. Rather, they should stop and take a break for as long as they need to. If they have to be done exercising for the day, then so be it.
- They should maintain a consistent pace when cycling. This will produce the most benefits, help them use their energy wisely, and reduce their rate of injury.
What Kind Of Exercise Is Best For Seniors?
Your senior parent or loved one has taken to the exercise bike, but they’re interested in expanding their horizons as well.
Here are some recommended types of exercise for them to take up.
Don’t worry, most seniors won’t be lifting huge, heavy weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rather, they’ll exercise with smaller, lighter-weight dumbbells, doing movies like front raises, overhead presses, bicep curls, triceps extensions, and bent-over rows.
Strength training may raise their metabolism and lessen symptoms associated with depression, back pain, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Walking is easy to do, allows you to get some fresh air, and can increase muscle strength. The goal is for a senior to get 10,000 steps in per day.
These days, they don’t even have to manually count their steps themselves.
Their smartphone, watch, or fitness tracker will automatically track steps for the senior as long as it’s worn on their body or taken with them.
The flexibility that yoga demands may be too difficult for the elderly, but chair yoga is a lot easier to do.
It’s also very low-impact since a senior is sitting, just as they would when using an exercise bike.
Your parent can learn to do impressive, seated yoga positions such as seated twists, seated mountain pose, seated cat stretch, seated cow stretch, and the overhead stretch.
Water aerobics is also highly recommended for older adult, as water’s buoyancy doesn’t strain the joints nearly as much as doing the same exercises outside of the water.
Water aerobics can be done in your own personal pool or in a group class.
From aqua jogging to leg lifts, arm curls, flutter kicks, and standing water push-ups, there are a lot of ways to exercise in the water.
Best Exercise Bikes For Seniors
Exerpeutic 900XL 300 lbs. Weight Capacity Recumbent Exercise Bike with Pulse
This one has an adjustable height seat (User height – 5’3” – 6’ 6”) and 8 magnetic tension levels to increase the difficulty of the workout.
It has a comfortable, oversized seat cushion and a back rest. This is a great bike for anyone who is between a height of 5’3” and 6’ 6”. The weight capacity is 300 pounds.
One thing I like about this one is that it features an easy to read LCD display that tells you the distance you’ve ridden, number of calories burned, the time and speed of your ride, and gives you heart rate information.
You can also get a premium subscription to trainer-led workouts.
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike | SF-RB4708
This model has moveable arms, which helps give you a full body workout.
It also has 8 resistance levels, like the Exerpeutic (above), as well as pulse sensors to monitor your heart rate.
This exercise bike comes with an oversized seat and oversized backrest and supports up to a 350 pound weight capacity.
The Schwinn 270 has a lot of bells and whistles, like enhanced Bluetooth connectivity, an LCD screen with 29 pre-loaded workout programs and more than 50 global routes, and 25 levels of resistance.
It comes with a vented and contoured adjustable seat and a backrest.
It has a weight capacity of 300 pounds.
Mini Bike / Foot Pedal Exercisers
If you don’t have the room or don’t want to invest in a full size recumbent exercise bike, a mini foot pedal exerciser will give you many of the same benefits.
*It should be noted that you SHOULD NOT stand on one of these and use them like an elliptical! They are for sitting down and exercising only!
LifePro Under Desk Elliptical – Under Desk Bike Pedal Exerciser
The LifePro comes with a floor mat so you don’t have to worry about getting you floor dirty while using it. It also comes with a resistance band for an added arm workout.
Other nice extras include caster-stoppers to keep your chair from moving around while pedaling, plus a strap to secure the ellipticle to your chair.
It has 8 levels of resistance and an LCD monitor to track your time, number of strides, and calories burned. And it has a Bluetooth feature to connect it to your phone.
NOTE: the weight capacity for this machine is only 220 pounds.
Cubii JR1 Under Desk Elliptical, Bike Pedal Exerciser
This under-desk pedal exerciser has 8 resistance levels and a 250 pound weight limit.
It features a built in LCD fitness tracker. The digital monitor allows you to keep up with your progress by tracking calories burned, strides pedaled, distance traveled, and number of active minutes.
There is an option to subscribe for live and on demand workout classes that are taught by expert trainers, but this isn’t mandatory.
We all need exercise for good health, but deciding which exercises are right for aging bodies can be difficult. A stationary bike is a suitable choice for seniors since it provides low-impact cardio with a lower risk of injury.
For other exercise choices, seniors can also explore water aerobics, chair yoga, or strength training to stay in shape.