3 Reasons Why Older People Can Benefit From Using A Recumbent Bike

If you’re someone who’s starting to get older but doesn’t want to let that stop them from keeping fit and active, the great news is that you definitely do not have to. There are many terrific fitness options out there for aging individuals that will help them maintain their strength, stamina, and health for many years to come.

One such exercise is the recumbent bike. Some of you may not even be familiar with what this if. You’ve never been to a commercial gym before, there’s a good chance you may have never actually seen one of these in person.

A recumbent bike is a bike that has you in a seated position, with a back rest and has you pedaling forward, rather than downward.

If you think about your body position on a traditional bike, the legs are going to be below the waist, pedaling beneath you.

With the recumbent bike on the other hand, the legs are actually in line with the waist pedaling at a ninety degree angle to the body. This brings with it unique benefits that you will want to know about.

Let’s go over some of these benefits right now so that you know precisely why this is an exercise variety to consider.

Less Risk Of Back Pain

The first reason why you’ll want to consider using the recumbent bike is because there is a lower risk of developing back pain from this bike compared to the traditional bike, especially for older individuals.

When you’re on the traditional bike, there are no back rest to support you, so you must maintain posture yourself. To make matters worse, the natural position people usually adopt when on this type of bike is slightly hunched over as they grasp the handle bars, or worse, lean over the handle bars to rest their upper body.

Doing this is going to place more stress and strain on the lower back, not only because now you are stretching out the ligaments being hunched over like that, but you’re also weakening the muscles over time as they are not maintaining optimal position.

An upright posture is what’s desirable and this bike simply doesn’t not encourage that. For younger individuals who are not as at-risk for muscle mass loss this doesn’t pose as much of a threat because they are likely doing other activities throughout the day that are working their back sufficiently enough they don’t have to worry.

But as a senior, if you are doing your exercise program only and then taking it easy the remainder of the day, you are at that higher risk of noticing decreased strength in your back muscles and lower back injury.

Many seniors unfortunately are already showing signs of poor posture, which comes when their back is hunched over from years of not correcting themselves. What happens in this situation is the chest muscles tighten while the back muscles become loose, which then pulls the shoulders forward and causes that hunched over appearance to take shape.

When you bike, you further increase this process even more, just aggravating the situation.

With the recumbent bike however, because you have that upright back support you are leaning against, you maintain better posture. While it’s true that you do have the support so your muscles won’t be working quite as hard as they would if there was no support, at least it’s supporting you in a proper position, which is always going to be a better choice than being in a poor position and becoming more accustomed to using that posture at all times.

Whether you have a back injury right now or not, it’s very essential that you are taking care of your back and recumbent biking is one way of doing that.

To add to this, if your choice is between the recumbent exercise bike and the treadmill, definitely do choose the recumbent bike if reducing back injuries is your goal. Walking or jogging, if you are at the fitness level to do so, is quite taxing on the body and back because of all the downward stress acting upon you with each and every step you take. You’ll have your entire body weight plus gravity working against you, so this can be a lot for the vertebra in the back to bear. Over time, lower back aches and pain may result, which can entirely keep you away from your workout sessions.

Decreased Tension On The Knee Joint

The next reason why older individuals can stand to benefit from the recumbent bike is because this type of bike tends to place less overall tension on the knee joint. The upright bike has the knees following below the body and therefore there is quite a bit of stress forces acting directly upon the front of the knee. The quads are coming into play heavily in order to direct the knee in the circular motion, completing every rep that you do.

Because of the position of the knees, there is a greater likelihood of the knees not tracking properly over the toes, going inward or outward depending on how your body biomechanically wants to go. If you have a weaker inner or outer thigh muscle this can also pull the knee in one direction, making it more probable that you are going to experience grinding forces on the knee, leading to pain and eventual injury.

With the recumbent bike on the other hand, because the knees are moving in front of the body, there is less total sheer forces acting on the front of the knee and instead, it’s more balanced throughout the entire knee.

On top of that, because of the particular movement pattern you are using on this bike, there is less of a chance of the knees not being directed in line with the hips, thus you reduce the potential sheer forces on one side or the other. Basically, it’s a more balanced movement for the knees and most people will have an easier time controlling this movement pattern.

Knee injuries can be nagging and persistent and it’s not uncommon to see older individuals experiencing quite a few knee problems as they get older, so you’ll want to do anything you can to protect your knees – choosing the recumbent bike included.

If you are someone who is set on doing the upright bike as this is what you’ve always used and what you are now used to, that’s fine too but just keep in mind that you may want to have the recumbent bike in your pocket for cross training purposes. By using this bike on occasion to help relieve some of the ongoing same tensions on the knees and back, you can side-step the injuries from happening.

Overuse injuries are all too common in people who do the exact same form of cardio over and over again, so a combination of both is usually ideal.

Less Stabilization Required

Finally, one last benefit of the recumbent bike for older individuals you’ll want to keep in mind is that there is less stabilization required to ride this bike. If you are an older adult who is losing your balance and stability, you might find the upright bike a bit too much to manage. While you are in the seated position, you still have to balance the upper body while the lower body is moving, which can be a challenge for some people.

The good news is with the recumbent bike, because you have the back pad you can rest against, this is going to mean that you are fully stabilized in the chair. This makes it very much just a lower body activity and one that most seniors should be able to do with ease.

It’s also a great way to introducing yourself to cycling if you’ve never biked before as it is so easy to learn and implement in an exercise routine.

Some seniors may eventually want to give the upright bike a try in time, while others will instead be happy just maintaining their program on the recumbent bike at all times.

So there you have a closer look at why older individuals may find themselves more interested in pursing the recumbent bike over other modes of exercise. The recumbent bike and the exercise bike are both excellent choices if you are looking or a low-impact mode of exercise however the recumbent bike really shines when you are looking at injury prevention for older individuals. Be sure when shopping for an exercise bike that you hop on a few and see which one feels best to you. Most people will report that recumbent bikes are simply more comfortable to use and when it’s comfortable, you’re more likely to do it and that translates into great results.

Photo credit: pikselstock/Shutterstock; Mladen Zivkovic/Shutterstock; karelnoppe/Shutterstock

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