A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Recumbent bikes: A new cycling craze?

Recumbent bike illustration

Nearly a third of Marshfield Clinic physical therapy patients use recumbent bikes.

You may have seen them on the road or in the gym, bikes that are closer to the ground and some with three wheels. They’re recumbent bikes and they’re taking the exercise and physical therapy worlds by storm.

What are they?

What’s so different about a recumbent? This bike has a back rest that puts the cyclist in a more reclined position. John McDonough, D.O., an orthopedics physician, says there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

“The advantage is the back rest provides more back support,” McDonough said. “There’s also more comfort for your shoulders. However, increased back support decreases the emphasis on core stabilizing muscles. So, if someone were training on a recumbent bike to work those muscles, a regular bike may be a better option.”

Put the pedal to the metal indoors and outdoors

Recumbent bikes are also used regularly in physical therapy.

Physical Therapists Thomas Schuerman and Daniel Janik, along with McDonough say about a third of their physical therapy patients use recumbent bikes.

“A lot of patients I see prefer to use a recumbent bike because of the more reclined seat position,” said Schuerman.

“Patients who have limited ambulatory abilities, like those who use a wheelchair or a walker, find it’s hard to get on an upright bicycle,” McDonough said. “It’s easier for them to get on a recumbent bike and build strength in their lower extremities and improve cardiovascular health.”

Since the seat is lower, a recumbent is easier to get on and they’re also good for people recovering from heart surgery.

They also say many people like to ride them outdoors. “People also like to be closer to the ground outside, especially since going up a hill may be easier,” McDonough said.

Which bike is better?

What wins out, a recumbent or a regular bike? Doctors and physical therapists say one is not better than the other and can serve different needs.

McDonough says there are benefits to both since your legs, back and core are in different positions. They both also increase heart rate.

“Dedicated bikers do cross-fit training on both styles of bikes because they work muscles differently,” said McDonough.

He says it depends on the person’s preference, but any type of exercise on an indoor or outdoor bike will be good for physical therapy and your overall health.

If you’re considering using a recumbent as an option for physical therapy, talk to your doctor and/or physical therapist to see if it’s the best option for you.

One Response
  1. Mar 24, 2016

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