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Is Spinning A Weight Bearing Exercise? 7 Facts

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Weight-bearing exercises involve a person’s body weight being supported by their legs, whereas non-weight-bearing exercises are not supported in this way. So what does that mean for spinning? Is it weight-bearing?

Spinning is mostly non-weight bearing, but usually includes periods of being weight-bearing. If you engage with spinning entirely from a seated position then it is non-weight bearing. However, if you stand during periods of spinning, then this is a weight-bearing exercise.

In short, it kind of depends. Spinning can be an entirely non-weight-bearing exercise, and you can sit down for the whole thing.

However, that is not normal, and spinning bikes are set up for periods of standing cycling as well.

In this post, I’ll look at 7 facts which are:

  1. How spinning can be non-weight-bearing
  2. How spinning can be weight-bearing
  3. How spinning is a hybrid of the two
  4. Non-weight-bearing spinning is good for joints
  5. Non-weight-bearing spinning is good for arthritis
  6. Weight-bearing spinning is good for bone density
  7. Non-weight-bearing spinning is food for knee problems
is spinning a weight bearing exercise

1. How Spinning Can Be Non-Weight-Bearing

People are normally interested in non-weight-bearing exercises when they have been recommended this form of activity. This is often because of an injury.

The fact is that spinning can be fully non-weight-bearing if you never stand up on your machine.

Seated cycling is fully non-weight-bearing. Your saddle supports your body weight. Your legs support no body weight, and their whole force is going into spinning the pedals.

Seated cycling is one of the best types of non-weight-bearing exercise. Some others include:

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Using a hand bike
  • Seated resistance training
  • Rowing

To keep spinning as a purely non-weight-bearing activity then try the following:

-If you are in a spin class, then simply ignore the standing sections of the session. Maybe explain to the instructor this beforehand

-If you are spinning by yourself, just don’t stand up! It’s that simple.

2. How Spinning Can Be Weight Bearing

The reality is that the vast majority of people that exercise with spinning will stand up to cycle at points in their session.

Even the spin bikes themselves are ergonomically designed to make this possible.

These weight-bearing parts of the sessions are when you are replicating going up climbs, or sprinting with the resistance on high. They are when you receive the full benefits of the workout (for those who have no problem with weight-bearing exercise). Those benefits include:

  • They are the most intense parts of the session
  • They build and tone leg muscle more so than seated cycling
  • They help burn more fat
  • They get your heart beating faster, leading to increased cardiovascular health

3. How Spinning Is A Hybrid Of The Two

To put it simply, you can adapt spinning to suit you. If you are looking for a purely non-weight-bearing exercise then it can be that.

Alternatively, you can stand. There really is no right or wrong.

The flexibility of cycling in general is part of its appeal. You can start at whatever intensity suits you.

If you’re brain is still spinning about exactly what is a non-weight-bearing and what is a weight-bearing exercise, then take a look at this video:

4. Non-Weight Bearing Spinning Is Good For Joints

The main appeal of non-weight-bearing exercises is that they are good for joints, particularly the joints in the legs. The main joints are the knees and ankles, but the hips are involved too.

Non-weight-bearing activities put much less stress on these joints. Because the body weight is supported somewhere else, the muscles and joints in the leg are left to perform a simple function. The knees are gently bending and straightening, and the ankles are only going through a very limited range of movement.

On top of this, cycling is a low-impact activity. That basically means there are no impacts on the joints – no jerks or jolts.

High-impact activities are ones where there are lots of repetitive impacts on a joint. This would be things like jogging, or HIIT aerobics. These exercises can cause wear and tear on joints over time.

Also, low-impact spinning is good at building up muscle around the joints, and this cushions them from impacts.

5. Non-Weight Bearing Spinning Is Good For Arthritis

For those suffering from arthritis, sat-down cycling is recommended by medical professionals and physiotherapists. (Source)

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints, so of course, this makes sense.

One of the beauties of spinning is that you can access it at a level of intensity that suits you. You can attempt spinning for short time intervals or at really low levels of activity and resistance.

6. Weight-Bearing Spinning Is Good For Bone Density

If you choose to include the standing sections in your spinning session, then spinning can be very good for bone density, particularly in your legs.

What does this mean?

Well, your bones are actually strengthened by activities that have some level of repetitive impact on them. When you stand up to cycle, it puts a greater strain on your legs, and on the bones in your legs.

The repetitive impacts of the legs going up and down help the bone tissue grow and strengthen. (Source)

It works in a similar way to resistance training on muscles. Resistance training rips and tears the muscle fiber, which grows back repaired and stronger.

7. Non-Weight Bearing Spinning Is Good For Knee Problems

Linked to many of the issues above, spinning is often recommended for those with knee problems.

It can be ideal for a range of knee issues, including:

Those recovering from ACL injuries

Many physios will prescribe cycling alongside other leg-strengthening exercises. This won’t be immediately after either the injury or an operation, but at a point later on in their recovery.

Once again, the same kinds of reasons make it effective for this rehabilitation process – it is low-impact, non-weight-bearing, and strengthens muscles around the knee.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is a condition where you feel pain in the center of your knee cap. It is caused by a range of things, but one of those is running (as you can guess from the name). It is also commonly caused by high-impact exercise.

Up to 30% of joggers suffer from runner’s knee at some point which is obviously a large number!

Many sufferers of runner’s knee find benefits in transitioning to cycling as an alternative form of cardio. If you are really suffering from this condition, however, it is wise to rest for a period before starting cycling.

Beginning to cycle while already suffering from runner’s knee could just keep the condition the same, or potentially make it worse.

Ideally, you will rest until the condition has cleared up, and then start cycling. The low-impact nature of cycling should ensure there will be no future flare-ups of runner’s knee.