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Stationary bikes are one of the most recognized choices for cardiovascular workouts. The recumbent bike benefits not only people looking for a low-impact workout, but also those who are long-term cardio lovers. While it may not look like the image you think of for an exercise bike, here is why our expert thinks you should consider one for your next workout.

What Is a Recumbent Bike?

Unlike a traditional stationary bike where you are upright with the pedals below you and your center of gravity, the recumbent bike puts the pedals out in front of you, making for the most stable cycling experience.

With a larger seat and pedals that are in the front, the seated position a recumbent bicycle puts you in is definitely different from what you would normally think of when riding a stationary bike. The backrest and low-to-the-ground design help this low-impact bike stand out.

On traditional studio cycle bikes, like the widely-recognized Peloton Bike , you can stand and work leg muscles in a new way. The recumbent bike, however, keeps you in a seated position and takes pressure off your body–specifically, your joints–while still being effective. These features make this ideal for anyone regardless of their level of ability, disability, or body weight.

an illustration of a recumbent bike vs upright bike

8 Benefits of Recumbent Bikes

Now that we covered what a recumbent bike is and how it can be used at any fitness level, let’s go over how it can benefit you.

1. Low-Impact Exercise

Being in a more reclined position rather than upright puts less strain on your lower joints, like the hips and knees. According to this study in the Journal of Rheumatology, recumbent biking can reduce joint pain and stiffness while increasing muscle strength. This allows for a heart-pumping workout without the pain.

2. Easy for Beginners

The hands-free design without the complexity of working upper body at the same time (like you’ll find on an air bike) makes recumbent bikes stand out from the rest. In fact, recumbent bikes are so easy to use that some models even come with screens equipped to play television while you ride. The ease of use as well as not being too high intensity is what makes this bike perfect for easing into exercise.

Using the ProForm Hybrid Trainer XT as a recumbent bike

3. Comfortable Workout

The low bike seat design means less balance is required when getting on and off the bike, further building confidence to any novice biker. Additionally, the seat is wider than the more standard saddle seat, providing a more comfortable experience for the user. 

The adjustable pedals also make for a custom ride. On may models, users can adjust the pedals to their preferred level of leg extension. 

“Due to the reclined position, the recumbent bike will likely require less range from your hips and knees, and therefore be slightly easier on your joints,” says Doctor of Physical Therapy Mike Masi. “This may be the better option when working around swelling in the knee. Furthermore, you can adjust the seat setting to increase the distance from the pedals, which will also decrease the range of motion required at the knees.”

4. Accommodates People With Back Injuries

The reclined seating position means that your core as well as your upper body is more relaxed while you cycle, leading to less strain on your back.

Dr. Masi says, “A recumbent bike takes significant strain off the back and hips when compared to your traditional indoor cycling bike.” This is ideal for people with back injuries because with this positioning you can get all the benefits of cycling with less stress and soreness.

RELATED: Benefits of Indoor Cycling

5. Works Lower-Body Muscles

Just like any cycle bike, the recumbent bike works your hamstrings, calves, and glute muscles all while remaining low-impact. Not only do you have the opportunity to strengthen muscle, but you also build muscular endurance by using those muscle groups over an extended period of time. Who says you can’t exercise sitting down?

anatomy of recumbent bike

6. A Safe, Stable Cycling Experience

Besides being great for back and knee injuries, the recumbent bike is also ideal for those with balance issues. Because the bike is lower to the ground, there is no need to climb up or awkwardly swing your leg over like on a traditional bike. The seat allows for you to sit down comfortably just like if you were to sit in any chair. This significantly lowers the chance of injury to those prone to falling, making it a safe piece of cardio equipment.

7. Great for Cardiac Rehabilitation

According to this study, exercise in the recumbent position puts less strain on your cardiovascular system versus the leaned-forward upright cycling position. Researchers also point out how the participants were able to come down to their baseline heart rate faster on a recumbent bike. Findings also showed that this form of aerobic exercise could be better for your blood pressure. This means recumbent cycling can be great for those with cardiac limitations, those who are recovering from a heart attack, and the elderly.

In another study, recumbent bicycling was found to reduce the myocardial workload of patients who experienced atrial fibrillation. It also states that it can lower the workload while not disrupting the nervous system that regulates cardiac activity.

8. May Improve Range of Motion

Range of motion refers to how far you can stretch or move certain muscles or joints. People with injuries or arthritis may have a very limited range of motion compared to the rest of the population.

This study shows how recumbent biking helped rehab patients with arthritis in their hips. It was used as a part of treatment to stretch the muscles and increase circulation to help patients have more mobility. Over time, this helped them regain range of motion they may never have had or had lost.

An illustration showing the muscles worked during a pedaling cycle

Is a Recumbent Bike Workout Effective?

You can use a recumbent bike for any fitness goal, whether it’s building muscle or burning calories for weight loss. Biking alone can get your heart pumping, and adding resistance works your leg muscles.

“You can certainly work large muscle groups and burn calories on a recumbent bike,” says Dr. Masi. “You can do HIIT on a recumbent bike.”

Effective workouts can also be the workouts that you are going to stick with. Beginners might gain confidence from using exercise equipment like the recumbent bike.

Disadvantages of Recumbent Bikes

The disadvantages to recumbent bikes are coincidentally the same things that give it its advantages. For example, you don’t get a total-body workout on a recumbent bike, the way you would on an elliptical or rowing machine. Instead, you’re mostly working just your lower body.

Recumbent bikes also tend to take up a lot of space because the pedals are stretched out in front of your body. If you have a small home gym, having a large piece of equipment that only works one muscle group may not be the most beneficial way to use your space.

Final Thoughts

While maybe not the trendiest choice in bikes, recumbent exercise bikes have many advantages. Here we talked about how you can get an effective low-impact workout, rehab injured muscles, improve your range of motion, gain confidence in working out, and secure a safe exercise option. Recumbent bikes are so much more than just something in a physical therapist’s office. The next time you are at the gym choosing your cardio workout, hop on one and take it for a spin.

Recumbent Bike Benefits FAQs

Does a recumbent bike burn belly fat?

There is no way to do spot-fat reduction, but exercise can burn calories and burn fat in the body, including on your belly.

What are the disadvantages of a recumbent bike?

Recumbent bikes are typically bigger machines and work only lower-body muscle groups, not making them ideal for small home gyms.

Is a recumbent bike as good as walking?

Yes! With all the benefits of walking but being easier on the joints, you can argue that recumbent bikes could be better than walking. It all depends on your pace for both activities.

How long should I ride a recumbent bike?

The American College for Sports Medicine recommends doing 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise five days a week. Taking a 30-minute spin on the bike during which you elevate your heart rate is a great place to start.

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