Stationary bikes are exercise machines that mimic bicycles without actually going anywhere. Typically, they have a solid back inverted T-frame that sits firmly on the ground and a front wheel which sits just off the ground and turns freely by pedal motion.
As stationary bikes provide low impact exercise, experts consider them to provide one of the best cardio and lower-body workouts. People with knee injuries often choose these bikes as a therapeutic alternate that strengthens knee muscles without "pounding" joints.
These bikes have tension settings, equivalent to gears, to adjust to any workout level. Just thirty minutes of daily exercise on one will satisfy most recommended cardio requirements for a healthy lifestyle.
Stationary bikes come in one of two basic types: upright or recumbent.
On the upright model, a person sits very much like he or she would on a standard bicycle. Some people like this position, while others feel too much pressure in the lower back or groin area after using the bike a short while.
The recumbent model was designed to address these issues and is especially suited to people with lower back problems or chronic back pain. It is reclined so that the exerciser sits go-cart style, with legs stretched out ahead rather than extended downward. Recumbent stationary bikes have larger "saddle" type seats with well-cushioned scooped backs. This type of machine is considered by many to be most comfortable and gives the buttocks a better workout than upright models.
When using stationary bikes, the seat should be adjusted so that when legs are fully extended at the bottom of each rotation, the knee of the extended leg remains slightly bent. The motion of the legs should be rhythmic and fluid, resistance should be at a comfortable setting and the handlebars should be easy to reach.
Some stationary bikes have been designed with handlebars that move up and back to include an upper body workout, while others move the rider herself up and down. Some doctors are skeptical of the benefits of these types of bikes, especially the latter type, which some believe could cause knee or back strain. With the one drawback of stationary bikes being that they provide little upper body workout, the exercise routine should include weight lifting or resistance training to meet this need.
Before starting any exercise regimen, talk to your doctor to determine a routine that will serve your needs best.