While the benefits of aerobic activity are vast, ranging from better mood and sleep to reduced health risks, Zolkiewicz shares the findings of a study3 showing that recumbent bikes work two muscles harder than the upright bike: the semitendinosus in the hamstring, and the tibialis anterior, located along the shin. (By contrast, the rectus femoris muscle, which is part of the quadriceps group, was worked harder by upright bikes.)
The specific benefits of recumbent bikes truly come down to the design, which takes ergonomics, comfort, back support, stability, and even seat size into consideration. Their design relays more support and stability, as well as a gentler degree of impact on joints and the back, which makes them great options for older adults, those with back issues or joint pain, larger-sized individuals, those in recovery from an injury, or simply for those days when you are tired, sore, or want to work out your legs.
“A lot of users find the body position more comfortable as compared to an upright bike,” says Zolkiewicz. “They usually have larger seats that make them accessible for larger [sized] individuals, while full-back support makes the seated position more comfortable.”
He explains that while upright bikes engage more muscle groups, the support afforded by the recumbent position helps make for an overall gentler ride. “The back support takes pressure off the lumbar spine, which means that you will feel less impact and minimize the strain on the back and neck,” he says. “They can also be a great exercise option for older adults because they don’t require a lot of balance to mount or dismount and are closer to the ground than upright bikes.”
Lastly, Zolciewicz points out that greater comfort while working out often translates into longer workout sessions—ideal for the long-term sustainability of a regimen, and the journey toward reaching your fitness goals. This makes them excellent options for newcomers who want to ease themselves into a gym routine.