Exercise enthusiasts can’t stop talking about indoor cycling. Places such as Soulcycle and Flywheel are offering high end spin classes that they not only claim is an incredible workout, but an overall outstanding self-bettering experience. However, while I am a health-conscious individual, I am skeptical as to whether $25-$30 per class is really worth the trend. Do indoor cycling classes live up to their hype?
In my personal workout experience, I love to attend spin classes. The music is motivating and upbeat, and it’s fun to imagine climbing and sprinting like it’s a real-life bike ride. I always leave a spin class sweating, which leads me to believe that it’s a great workout! Luckily, this American College of Sports Medicine article justifies my assumption. The article explains how the cardiovascular activity generated during indoor cycling is not only advantageous to your heart by reducing the risk of heart conditions and high blood pressure, but also strengthens your muscles, raises your endurance, and protects your joints. In terms of calorie burning, spinning is an incredible medium. As mentioned in the above ACSM article, spinning.com discovered that the average 45 minute spin class has the potential to burn between 400-600 calories. However, I somewhat am doubtful of this statistic, as today I took a 45 minute indoor cycling class at the IM building where I only burned around 300 calories. Maybe I just have to work harder to reap the physical benefits of my exercise!
In addition to physical rewards, indoor cycling also enhances mental health. “The Brain Science of Biking,” an article by Shape, discusses how the act of cycling increases the “white matter,” or the tissue that is responsible for linking the various entities of your brain so that they can better communicate. Furthermore, cycling generates a protein that is tied to memorization and stress levels called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This amplified memorization as a result of spinning was also found in a study done by the University of Illinois, which concludes that regularly cycling increases the hippocampus, or the part of the brain specializing in cognitive recollection, by 2%.
Therefore, spinning is beneficial from both a physical and mental perspective according to science. Of course, all of these profits from the act of indoor cycling will vary by individual. For instance, one’s level of fitness, capability to spin with the right form, and their mental status prior to class. This explains why many people that I have questioned about the value of indoor cycling claim that a spin class is only as good as the instructor. This article addresses this downfall of indoor cycling, saying how failure to think and perform in a distinct way while cycling short-sells people of the potential benefits. Furthermore, another skepticism is the fact that spinning is not the only exercise that burns calories or aids memorization, so what makes it so special? This Business Insider article proposes that a potential answer to this question is the luxurious community appeal that places like SoulCycle and Flywheel use to attract their customers. These facilities utilize their high end reputation and strong branding to manipulate the consumer opinion that the workout will reward him or her beyond the capabilities of a traditional gym. They imply that cyclers will be a part of an elite and trendy community, and go through a one of a kind self-betterment process. Therefore, the upscale and fashion forward image of such indoor cycling gyms could be a confounding variable in the question of whether the workout lives up to the trend.
Accumulating all of this information, I have come to believe that spinning is a worthwhile form of exercise if you’re there for the right reasons. It may sound like a line from The Bachelor, but it’s a valid differentiating factor in deciding whether spin classes are worth the trend. There is a line to be crossed where the schtick starts to override the actual exercise. People pay an exorbitant amount to spin because they get caught up in the brand rather than the bike. However, If you get on the bike with the mindset that you’re there for an intense workout and you’re going to give it your all, then you will reap the physical and mental benefits of indoor cycling that will live up to its popularity.