Spinning is a fairly modern term for a centuries-old physical activity, indoor cycling. Is spinning good for older adults and can they handle it? While almost any kind of physical activity is better than none at all, and cardiovascular exercise is especially helpful for living a healthy lifestyle, it can be difficult for independent older adults to maintain regular workouts outdoors. Indoor cycling helps fill that gap, and taking a senior spin class can be just the thing to stay active long into retirement.
What Is Spinning and Its Impact on Senior Adults?
Spinning is an exercise program that involves riding a stationary bike indoors. The wheel on the indoor bike spins, which is where the exercise gets its name. When it’s done in groups, it can be a fun social occasion. The idea of getting groups of people together to ride indoor bikes and have fun is where spinning classes began. The activity is fun in itself, and the presence of others helps encourage riders to keep up a steady pace and stick with their spinning for the long run.
Easygoing Cardiovascular Exercise Versus Strenuous Exercise
Of course, spinning isn’t the only way to get exercise. There’s also a debate over whether you should stick to something low-intensity or go for something more strenuous to make gains faster. There’s no consensus about which is objectively better, and your doctor is the best resource to ask about which is right for you. It’s worth briefly laying out a spectrum of exercise, from the least to the most strenuous.
Low-Strain Workout Activities
The point of a cardio workout is to get your heart rate up and train your body for more endurance and overall fitness. To know whether your exercises are high- or low-intensity, try to speak a full sentence without pausing for breath. If you can easily talk while you’re at the peak of your workout, it’s probably low in intensity. Low-level exercises can include walking, light or intermittent jogging, water activities, and relaxed or casual indoor biking.
At higher levels, your cardio routine can leave you a little short of breath. If you can’t talk without catching your breath, you’re probably operating a little above your body’s normal levels and making some high-intensity progress. You can do this if you’re jogging long distances, running at a sprint or spinning at high speeds. Listen to your body while you’re doing this, and take it down a level when you’re out of gas. The ease of switching back and forth between low- and high-intensity levels is one advantage of spin classes.
The Health Benefits of Indoor Cycling for Older Adults
Indoor cycling has most of the same benefits as any low-to-high-intensity cardiovascular workout. By getting your heart rate elevated for 30–60 minutes, cycling at a moderate intensity can be a great workout that affects systems all over your body. Depending on the intensity level you’re working at, cycling’s many benefits can include:
- Weight loss
- Better cardiovascular health
- Higher energy levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Better mental health
- Improved immune system function
- Increased lower body strength
- Pain relief
- Better overall health
Which Is Better, Indoor Cycling or the Great Outdoors?
Cycling is one of the most healthy independent living activities most seniors can do, but should older adults do it indoors or outside? There are benefits and drawbacks to both:
The best thing about outdoor cycling is that it gets you outdoors, where most of nature is. Fresh air, squirrels, and lots of wildflowers are out there, depending on the season and the area where you live. It also might give you a more intense lower-body workout since most bike trails tend to be a bit uneven and require better balance to ride on.
These can also be drawbacks to outdoor cycling. Fresh air gets cold in winter, and mosquitoes can be more common than squirrels. You might have an allergy to pollen or a balance issue that makes uneven trails more challenging.
Indoor cycling solves many of the issues outdoor exercise presents. It’s just the right temperature and pollen counts are low. You’re never lost on an unfamiliar trail, and the lack of a road surface means you’re never on uneven ground. Indoor cycling is also more likely to be a group occasion since classes are almost always held in a gym or other enclosure. It’s also usually quiet enough for you to hear the instructor give advice and encouragement.
Doing your cycling in a class has another benefit. It lets you experiment with different types of bikes you might not be familiar with in a safe, controlled setting. Stationary bikes you might see in a class include a:
- Traditional upright bike
- Spin bike
- Recumbent bike
- Regular road bike that’s been braced for indoor cycling bike use
Exercising in the recumbent position can be especially helpful for seniors. Recumbent bikes let you lean back and start cycling at lower stress levels. Your heart may not have to work as hard to pump blood around your body when you’re reclined, which can make this a safe alternative to regular exercise for a senior with high or erratic blood pressure.
Your First Spinning Class
Many seniors aren’t sure what to expect from their first spinning class. One of the first things the instructor will probably do is make new seniors feel welcome and comfortable. Try to arrive early to your first spin class, so you can ask any questions before the others join. Indoor cycling classes are often full and pretty high energy, so this helps a lot. Pick an exercise bike for the class, but only get on and start cycling when it’s time. The trainer leading the classes will let you know when.
Join Us for Indoor Cycling and More
If you or a loved one has questions about the health benefits of spinning or if you’d like to see what a great indoor Fitness Center looks like, we have everything you need at Riddle Village. Call us today at (610) 891-3700, or set up a visit online to see the best senior living community in person.