5 of the Best Exercise Bikes for Seniors
Here’s why a stationary bike can improve your health and a selection of the best ones in Canada.
The Benefits of an Exercise Bike for Seniors
To no one’s surprise, rain, snow and dropping temperatures cause a drop in people’s activity levels. From falling ice to dangerously slippery sidewalks, the winter months can pose several barriers to outdoor exercise, especially for older adults (age 60 and over). So, on the cusp of the Canadian winter, many of us are looking for safe and effective ways to exercise indoors.
Staying active throughout the colder months is essential for our health—it can reduce the risk of heart disease, control weight, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve mental health. While nature walks and treks to the gym may be less enticing in frosty temps, stationary bikes can be a convenient way to stay active indoors—particularly for seniors.
“It’s good for lower body strength and cardiovascular fitness,” says Dee Simpson, a 78-year-old fitness trainer and avid cyclist. Indoor cycling can improve muscle strength, increase gait ability, and even boost brain and memory functioning.
Because cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity, it doesn’t put as much stress on hips, knees and ankles as jogging or running, says Simpson. This also makes cycling a good option for older people who have joint issues, says Dorothy Zammit Martaus, a physiotherapist at Toronto’s University Health Network who treats seniors. Furthermore, cycling can be beneficial to those who need help with certain forms of recovery, such as assisting with rehabilitation after a stroke.
To help get you started, find out what the experts recommend when it comes to using an exercise bike to which bikes are best for seniors.
How Seniors Can Use an Exercise Bike
According to the World Health Organization, people aged 65 and above should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. For seniors who are new to cycling, Simpson recommends starting with three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time. However, she says, “anything that one does that doesn’t involve sitting on a couch is a positive.”
Many new stationary bikes come with cycling programs available for all levels of fitness and ability. Simpson suggests seniors start at the most basic level. “Master it and then slowly but surely—after riding about three or four times a week for a few weeks—go up to level two, then level three, and so on,” she says. “Do not advance too quickly as you’re likely to injure yourself inadvertently—or tire yourself out too much and quit.” Instead, go slow and steady, and if you haven’t been living an active lifestyle, talk to your doctor before starting any new workout.
For bikes that don’t offer guided workouts, Simpson recommends interval training: “Find a steady speed for a half-hour,” she says. “Every two or three minutes, go as fast as possible for up to 30 seconds, then go back to your steady speed.”
Best Exercise Bikes for Seniors
There’s a wide range of stationary bikes available in Canada, including upright spinners with challenging programs, easy-on-the-back recumbents, portable pedals for small spaces and assisted pedals that prompt you to push. Here are five of the best exercise bikes for seniors.
The Bowflex C6 has an easy step-through base, meaning there’s no bar or obstruction that users have to climb over, preventing the chance of injury. With this bike, users have the option to connect to the JRNY digital fitness platform (for a monthly or annual fee), which features trainer-led workouts, as well as a program that allows riders to virtually travel the globe. The bike has 100 resistance levels with magnetic resistance for a smooth, quiet ride.
The Bowflex C6 is categorized as an upright stationary cycle, which is as close to approximating the experience of outdoor biking as you can get. This means the bike can help strengthen the core and assist with balance training.
Schwinn 270 Recumbent
The Schwinn 270 Recumbent bike provides a lower-to-the ground, easy step-through base with a ventilated, contoured padded seat with lumbar support for extra back and hip comfort.
It syncs with the brand’s Explore The World app, which is similar to Bowflex’s JRNY platform, in that it allows users to pedal through cities and the countryside for an extra monthly or annual fee. The bike also connects to other apps for fitness tracking and boasts 29 programs including heart rate controls, fitness and recovery tests, and 25 levels of resistance. It’s difficult to move (it weighs almost 87 lbs) so it’s a bike for which you’d want a designated space in your home.
One of the main advantages of this option is that users can cycle without having to climb on top of it—in fact, it can be used with any chair or wheelchair. The Exnflex EF-250 is a pedal machine can help drive the legs forward, making it ideal for cyclists who need pedaling assistance.
The EF-250 is portable, weighing just 30 lbs, and completely adjustable. It also has an accessible control panel, an indicator for distance travelled, forward and reverse directions, three-speed levels and an automatic safety shutdown.
Smooth Rider II Bike and Resistance Chair Exercise System
Similar to the Exnflex EF-250, this option doesn’t require users to hop onto a tall seat. The Smooth Rider II Bike is an attachment for the Resistance Chair Exercise System and is perfect for resistance training for both upper body and lower body exercises. It has a digital cycle metre for speed, time and calories burned and an upright row bar for lateral pull and rowing exercises to do while cycling.
The resistance is adjustable and the bike attachment comes with an LED screen that shows time, distance and calories. “I do high-intensity resistance interval training with mine at home,” says 66-year-old physiotherapist Gwen Rose, who is also a distributor of the product in Canada. Rose’s 93-year-old mother is also a fan.
This option is ideal for small spaces because the chair and cycle can be stored separately.
$312 (bike), $350 (chair) xlentcare.com
(Related: 4 Ways to Keep Your Body Strong As You Age)
Peloton Fitness Bike
The famous Peloton is much-loved mainly for its popular app (for an extra monthly fee) that features thousands of workout classes. This upright bike comes with a touchscreen adjustable for different heights, as well as a Bluetooth-enabled sound system that can be used with headphones.
This bike is recommended for seniors by Dr. Jay Alberts, member of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Neurological Restoration & Biomedical Engineering and member of Peloton’s Health and Wellness Advisory Council. “Over the years, I have been evaluating the immediate, short- and long-term effects of aerobic exercise, cycling in particular, in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Our early studies indicated that high-intensity exercise over the course of 8-weeks led to significant improvements in the motor and cognitive symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.”