Exercise spin class

Published on March 10th, 2011 | by Graeme

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He S.A.I.D, She S.A.I.D: Why Spinning Won’t Make You Slim

Lately, I’ve been receiving quite a large amount of mail from readers bringing my attention to all kinds of great facts and foibles in the world of nutrition and exercise. Unfortunately, I can’t blog about each topic suggested, although many are certainly deserving of some attention, however, a recent query piqued my interest.

The question dealt with the usefulness of spinning (spin classes) as a tool for weight loss. Since I get this question fairly often, I figured I might as well answer it on the blog. Basically my view is as follows: if you want to use regular cardio as part of your weight loss program, ditch the spin bike and go run.

spin class 300x200 exercise

Fun? Yes. Good for weight loss? No.

Now since hearing this tends to upset people, I probably need to explain why.

Who S.A.I.D. That?

The human body is pretty cool… if not incredibly lazy. Although our bodies can and will adapt to pretty much any stimulus we throw at them (** adaptation can be a bad thing: we adapt to no exercise and crappy foods by storing more fat), we don’t really adapt to exercise stimuli unless we are forced to.

In other words, if you can lift something 15+ times without fatiguing or can carry out a conversation while doing your “cardio”, you aren’t placing any undo stress on your system… so no body composition remodeling ever needs to take place.

Clearly, it’s not even a question that intensity of the effort is a key variable when it comes to assessing the usefulness of an exercise to help us improve our bodies. But intensity isn’t the sole consideration. We also must account for the S.A.I.D. principle when it comes to figuring out an exercise’s usefulness.

Never heard of S.A.I.D. before? That’s ok… S.A.I.D. stands for:

  • S: Specific
  • A: Adaptations
  • I: (to) Imposed
  • D: Demands

In real world terms, this means that your muscles will grow bigger and stronger when you attempt to lift something heavy. Conversely, we’d expect your muscle endurance and cardiovascular system to improve when you subject your body to repetitive muscle contractions lasting many minutes (i.e. cardio).

The specific term in this principle also accounts for why we don’t get better at swimming just because we can run for 2 hours. The muscles needed to swim are wildly different than those needed to run. So while our cardiovascular system can improve with both forms of training, the skeletal muscles used have little to no carryover between disciplines.

Unfortunately, people assume that just because repetitive contractions expend a reasonably large number of calories, that all cardio training should then lead to weight loss… but that’s not always the case.

Here’s why.

Small, Strong or Skilled

In general, there are three ways to make movement easier: gain more muscle, carry less weight (generally in the form of body fat, but occasionally also in the form of less muscle as in the case of long-distance athletes) or become more efficient with our movement patterns (become more skilled).

Let’s call this the “small, strong or skilled” response to training. In other words, whenever you subject your body to a novel exercise stimulus, your body has to decide what’s the fastest route to improvement.

N.B. Remember that if you can already comfortably do an exercise, then no adaptation will occur. I can’t stress this point enough.

For most of us, improving our movement pattern happens first. Think back to someone learning how to skate. While you are learning to skate, your movement patterns are incredibly inefficient. Not only that, but you are tensing muscles all over your body to protect against falling… this act of activating the wrong muscles is extremely energy costly.

falling while skating 300x225 exercise

Man wasn’t meant to fly…

During the initial several weeks, skating expends quite a large number of calories. However, once you master the correct sequence of muscle firing, you become incredibly efficient and are able to skate for hours, as you learn how to conserve energy during the glide phase of each stride.

Unfortunately, as you become a better skater, you are no longer doing much for body recomposition.

The Sins of the Spin

Spinning follows a very similar pattern of “improvement”. Initially, spinning presents a challenge so you expend a reasonable number of calories while doing it. However, you rapidly become better at biking and learn how to effectively move your legs in a fashion that conserves the most energy possible.

While conserving energy is awesome if you are a competitive cyclist trying to win a race… this is an absolutely garbage phenomenon for individuals using exercise as a weight loss tool.

Compounding the negative aspects of spinning are the following factors:

  • no wind resistance to overcome
  • no side-to-side sway, little upper body activation
  • it is weight supported!

The first two factors are simple difference between spin bikes and cycling outdoors, but the last factor is the doozy.

Whenever you remove having to support your body weight from the cardio equation (i.e. spinning, elliptical, arc trainer), then suddenly cardio becomes a whole lot more ineffective for weight loss.

Remember back to the “small, strong or skill” outcomes I introduced earlier. In general, we expect cardio to produce a mix of skill/small. However, once we remove “having to haul my fat ass” from the equation, suddenly where’s the stimulus for becoming smaller?

sprint cycling legs 199x300 exercise

This gentleman has likely done a spin class or two in his day.

At a resistance level of “10”, a big fat guy is always going to have an easier time pedaling than would a small, skinny chick. In fact, when you support your weight with a bike frame, movement typically becomes more efficient by:

  • your legs storing more fuel
  • your legs building more muscle tissue

Now I don’t know about you, but neither of these outcomes sounds like they are going to make people any thinner. Actually, the far more likely outcome from spinning is that it will make your legs bigger and more muscular, since that’s the quickest route to improvement for repeat sprint/coast biking activities that last under an hour.

Obviously, if you were to start spinning for 3-5 hours a day, then you might actually see some mass losses (take a look at a Tour de France cyclist vs. the picture of an Olympic cyclist above), however, most of us don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to training.

So when time to exercise is <5 hours per week and you want to use cardio as a weight loss tool, opt for running or the step mill. Since both of these activities require you to carry your entire body mass with each step (unlike the bike or elliptical), the logical adaptation your body will undergo is: drop mass.

Still not convinced that you need to give up the bike or elliptical? Then maybe some objective data is needed to change your mind… These calorie expenditure numbers are based on a man weighing 180 lbs.

  • Stationary Cycling (moderate intensity): 572 kcal/hour
  • Running 8 mph: 950 kcal/hour

Even for those mathematically challenged, it’s apparent that running at a moderate clip burns nearly 2x as many calories as does spinning!

So there you have it, there’s really no other way to “spin” the reality… spin classes are among the worst fat loss tools around.

Till next time, train hard and eat clean!

Update August 21st 2012: To address many of the comments and questions that have emerged since this article was published, part II is live: A Fresh Spin on Cycling, Running and the Weight Loss Debate.

Update Sept 11th 2012: Dr. Johnny Bowden expands on the overall ineffectiveness of cardio exercise for weight loss in his piece “Exercise: The News You Don’t Want to Hear

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About the Author


Graeme is a sports nutritionist based out of London, Ontario. Graeme offers both in-person and distance coaching for physique competitors, elite athletes and those individuals looking for aggressive, yet sustainable fat loss.

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Comments

Bubba says:

Wow, this is a really terrible article. Sorry, but it really is.

Almost all athletes do their VO2max tests on stationary bikes. Why? Because the resistance can be precisely controlled. Same thing on a spin bike. If a person is using a heart rate monitor or is accurately using RPE they will increase resistance as their physiology adapts to cycling. Spinning allows people to get in, and stay in, their target heart rate zone better than almost any other exercise.

And as most people already picked up on a 7.5 minute mile is no joke, not a moderate pace. I don’t know many people who can run a 45 minute 10k who are exercising for weight loss.

If you like I can cite studies that show spinning 5 days a week with about 3 days a week of moderate weight training is an excellent way to staybfit and lose weight for most people.

Mark says:

I think you have missed the point here. The problem is not so much which form of exercise, but whether someone exercises at all. The key to exercising becoming a part of life. which is what will bring long term health benefits, is enjoyment. So if someone hates running, it doesn’t matter how much they burn because they won’t continue longer term.

Hayes says:

Average 572 calories per hour assuming the standard efficiency of a bike (25%) you’ll only need to push 160 watts. That is hardly “moderate” for a 180 lb dude. That is recovery spin for me and I’m 150 lbs.

A moderate effort would be closer to 220 watts for an hour burning 792 kj as to your point about running 8mph..7:30 pace for most people would ‘hard’ You’ve compared a hard run to an stupid easy bike

Cycling at threshold (hard), I burn 942 KJ (260 watts per hour) while running at threshold (hard) is nearly the same 1000 per hour.

Joe says:

I’m down about 30# since I started spinning 3x a week, and riding the bike 50-60 miles on Saturday. Swim 2x a week. Tried to add running for a spring tri, and it all went to………..you know. Left knee and right hip are killing me now, plus I hated it, as I have my entire life. Personally, I think that unless you’re born with the runner’s physiology, you hate it. I could be wrong. So what do you recommend if running causes too many physical problems and you’re 54? I’d like to lose another 10-20# just for climbing on the bike.

Lucy says:

Well said Elizabeth. Have been spinning for several months and all that has happened is that my legs have gotten bigger and I can’t fit into some of my pants- not the results that I had hoped for.

Joe says:

I would think the only way to make your thighs bigger was to spin with huge resistance, which is essentially the same at weight lifting.

Elizabeth says:

It’s funny reading all these posts in that people are quick to conclude that Graeme is basically bashing spinning. Perhaps it is the title of the article, but he is not, in fact, saying that spinning doesn’t burn any calories and/or does absolutely nothing. He’s saying that it’s not an ideal way to help weight loss along. I am a woman, and my personal experience, after going on a spinning kick (3 to 4 times a week) for three months, was that I did not notice any fat loss (that’s mostly what you put in your mouth anyway), and my legs most definitely got bigger, to the point that my pants got tighter in places I’d never experienced with simple weight gain. I didn’t like that look/my clothes getting tighter AT ALL and immediately went back to other forms of cardio, such as the Stepmill (the one that’s like an escalator — and I never lean on it, which defeats the purpose), swimming laps or Zumba. Within a month my thighs were slimmer and sleeker again. It’s all a matter of personal preference and also just genetics. I also have to be careful with how much weight I squat and lunge with or watch out! gigantic glutes (not helped my spinning, either)! In addition, spinning can be very hard on one’s knees. I personally think running isn’t the greatest, either, for your joints or for your heart (your body has no idea why you would be running and running and running and thinks a predator is after you and releases tons of cortisol), but I see the point about calorie expenditure.

Anyway, I for one really appreciated this post and felt somewhat validated in what I’d concluded about spinning on my own.

Christine says:

I tend to disagree with this article. I lost 10 lbs from spinning. And I was not extremely fat or overweight. I was 136 at 5’3″ and now I weigh 126. I chose spinning because I hurt my ankle from running. Spinning is a great cardio excercise because it does not put as much stress on your joints. Also, spinning has improved my stamina and running speed. Now that I am back running I can run a mile much faster than I did before. I don’t think it’s wise to say someone should run instead of spinning. I think spinning is a great alternative workout to supplement running, if that. Also, it forces people to push themselves harder because the class is so demanding. You act as though people just sit on the bike and pedal. There is much more than that. There is a lot of getting up that is required and the intervals are increased. So it is more like running up a hill than it is pedaling, because you are standing. I think you should have more of an open mind to excercises and get your facts straight. People do in fact loose weight from spinning and increase their stamina and speed.

Cristen222 says:

Please beware of this article!!!! You are correct in saying there is a higher expenditure in running but running that comes along with a much higher risk of injury. The impact on the joints as opposed to spinning is much greater. I am a marathon runner, spin instructor and long distance outdoor cyclist and endurance sport’s trainer. The damage caused from running alone is a proven risk. Put it this way: if you spend 1 hour a day exercising would you choose 1000-1200 calories running but in the mean time causing inflammation in the joints (high impact), putting undo stress on ligaments and muscles and causing possible permanent injury that will eventually force you to stop at some point or burn 600-800 on the spin bike where your risk of injury is much lower, you can do it several days in row (not suggested for running) and you are saving your joints (low impact). So although your article is factual in calorie expenditure numbers alone it’s dangerous to blindly say  “Spinning won’t make you slim.” If you are a fitness professional as you state, you know these facts I gave you to be true and need to be very careful when making simple minded arguments. If you believe in longevity, as I do you can never say one workout is right for everyone. It depends on goals, age, fitness level as well as many other factors.  I would never suggest running as a primary tool for weight loss. It is VERY dangerous to suggest a overweight person even run at all. 

Ritikanyk says:

by doing this ground cycling it makes my nose pointed but simontaneously makes my leg biggar in size…..n when ever i dont do any kinda exercise then i find my legs to be in perfect shape…why so??

Ritikanyk says:

does by doing cycling exercise on ground  also make thigh muscle stiff…when ever i do it initialy my thigh muscles become very stiff n my thighs look bigger in size….does by doing this exercise makes facial structure slim or fat……

Terabyte says:

I’m still buying a spin bike. I can’t run because I hate running. I’ve tried to like it, I just can’t.

Sfkling says:

i have lost 20 lbs,cycling the hills of san francisco, calorie restriction(NO junk food), sleep,hydration and watching mt carb intake. I think it correct that spinning may not result in desired body shaping, it WILL get you in great shape. This article may create the impression that spinning is a “flawed” activity. I can’t disagree more.

Stockholm Sam says:

As a former long-distance runner in university and currently a spin fanatic, I have to disagree with the general conclusion of the article, though I don’t have the expertise to dispute the “scientific facts” on which the article is based. In my experience, nothing has had a faster result on my overall body condition than spinning. My waist slimmed down, my thighs toned up, my butt got round and tight from spinning in a way that running never did for me. With running, yes I lost weight, but I was skinny and not necessarily a stunning physical specimen. Spinning got the ladies to give me a double-take when I walked by.

The other missing ingredient in this discussion is the negative impacts of the two exercises on the body. 100% of the runners I have known have developed problems with knees, ankles, hips or backs thanks to the constant sharp impact of running on hard, usually uneven pavement or (heaven forbid) trails. Cycling, and especially spinning, eliminates these negative effects and is less traumatic on the skeletal structure. Ligament damage is also lessened with cycling, imo, even if knee ligaments are susceptible to strain from repetitive cycling. You may lose more weight from running, but you will lose weight and GET TONED better with fewer negative effects from spinning. 

Klovesports89 says:

Who the hell can run at a moderate 8 mph??? I can’t but I can bike (outdoors or indoors) at an intense level for a long time. I can only run 8mph for about a min

CM says:

My only thoughts are that you are not comparing apples to apples:

Stationary Cycling (moderate intensity): 572 kcal/hour vs
Running 8 mph: 950 kcal/hour  

These are not the same intensity so they would not give the same calorie burn.  Running for 8mph for any length of time is high intensity and not moderate.  Perhaps a better analogy would be 6 or 6.5 mph or a 9-10min/mile.

I agree with everything else.

I think the problem is the “TITLE OF YOUR ARTICLE.” I just started spinning classes… I usually run and needed to cross train in another way. My challenge with running is breathing and controlling my heart rate. WOW did I realize how quickly I could also loose weight and burn fat! Mega mega plus =)

Sann45 says:

BTW, maybe this is why, although I do not like running, I lose weight the quickest when I do run.  My body tends to respond to running more than any other exercise.  However, with that said, I just got a new hybrid bike this weekend and want to incorporate more outdoor cycling into my routine (I was strictly doing spin, weight classes, free weights, aerobics) and still struggling to lose fat (I have about 15 lbs I would like to drop).  I have a lot of muscle mass, however the fat around the hips, thighs, abdomen are my issue!

Sann45 says:

Not sure but is this true for outdoor cycling as well?

peddlebanger says:

True spinning wont lose fat at the speed they go, but cycling will if the heart rate is kept within the zone 1 or 50% of there threshold zone, 8mph running will burn twice as many fat bubbles true, but it would take over an hour at that speed to kick it in, and what overweight person can run that speed for over an hour? Cycling is will beat your joints up less than running, I would say that both cycling and running work in conjunction with each other as a partnership, and neither one or the other is better than each, used sensibly with a coaches help you will see results for your set goals, no offence intended just my 2 pence worth :-)

Nolana says:

great read boss

Wcorgi1 says:

I agree that exercises that don’t support your body weight are more efficient at burning calories and thus weight loss. Actually that is indisputable. I also agree that a person has to find an activity they enjoy the most  and will do **Consistently** that is much more important then the chosen exercise.  Greg P.T :)

Lisawhite65 says:

I have long thin legs and actually wanted to build them up so that I am more proportioned. I have been spining for 10 years, and when I wear a heart rate monitor, I never see the number of calories burned get over 500 in an hour. But it has built my legs up. and I do strength training along with it. I think running and stair climbing is better cardio as well.

Ryenisei says:

listen just  burn some calories and eat right and you will lose weight any cardio will do i personaly have been spinning for four years three times a week and its a great work out

pdog says:

I think you are throwing the baby out with the bath water.  I find I can do about 600 calories in 45 minutes on an elliptical ( I am a 61 year old male 198 pounds ) ..the more upper body the better but I know that I am burning way more than 600 calories in a 45 minute spin class because it is NOT moderate intensity as you say.  It is  extreme intensity intervals, breaking down, recovering and breaking down again…just like a good weight training workout. Also it is true there is no wind resistance but building an instant hill with the pedal resistance more than makes up for that plus you are not coasting on the flats or downhills. As for running 8 mph.. I think you have to be pretty elite to do that out on the road….and like you say eventually you get good at it and you have to go further and longer to get the same workout….Most people I see running are using as little motion as possible just barely lifting their legs and their cardio gets stuck in the same place.  I would liken the spinning I am doing more to 40 yard sprints with 30 seconds of rest.  Also with going up and down we do get our core more involved and side to side when you are out of the saddle gets the hips involved….Do I need to to an upper body weight workout also ? sure….as for the steppers…yes they are a crazy calorie burner but they are so boring and strenuous that they are about the least used machines in our gym.  The power of the small group and the instructor to inspire will provide better results in the long run.  You say you are not “against” spinning but if you discourage someone who has never even tried it because you say it is of little or no value…. then you are doing them a disservice.

Backbonesports says:

This article is nonsense.  Just because you burn more calories/ hour while running doesn’t mean that you can’t lose weight with spinning.  You are still burning calories.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to run for an hour, especially at 8 mph.  So if you can spend an hour in spinning, you are better off than if you go running for ten minutes and then have to stop. 

Leahncarter says:

hello ive been spinng for 3 months and not lost a lb gave up refined carbs and sugars too. I am a 5 ft 5 female – what do you reccommend? I store all my weight in my belly 75kg but slim legs arms just fat bellly!

Bullmkt10000 says:

Graeme if you are trying to peddle services online it is wise to take the high road. You have damaged your brand .

workout-aholic says:

I am an avid “spinner” and I understand where you are coming from but I think people also need to realize that cardiovascular training that is weight bearing is very hard on your joints especially running. For beginners and older populations I recommend spinning or biking to prevent soreness (discourages individuals) and use as a weightloss tool. In order to cut weight you constantly have to keep suprising your body with new things. If the only type of training you do is spinning eventually your body will adapt and build muscle, but I think adding it to your weekly routine 1-2 times/week will provide most populations benefits including weight loss. Another point I want to share is if all an individual does is run the same adaptation will occur. The key is “changing it up”!

Marc says:

I’ve been a runner and recently took up spinning.  If you just sit on the bike and pedal casually, spinning isn’t going to do much for you, in terms of fat loss.  However, if you are spinning correctly, you are never just sitting around and pedaling  casually, but doing hard intervals. 

What’s more, you definitely are supporting your weight.  Good pedaling technique means that you have very little force on the bottom of the downstroke, because you’re pulling up with the other leg. This is actually very hard to do, and even harder than jogging.  Try pedaling on gear 21 for a 15 minute climb on a Keiser and then come back and tell us it does nothing for fat burning.   You’re heart rate will be high for a good duration, which will burn fat.  My clothes don’t fit the same after 4 months of spinning and I wasn’t obese to begin with. 

marc says:

 What I meant to re-iterate is that, like on a road bike, if you are spinning hard, the seat is not there to support your weight, but rather allow you to keep the bike under your body and recover for brief periods.  Even in a seated climb, you should be pedaling hard enough to keep your heart rate at 80% of the target.

As you become a more efficient cyclist, you spin harder. That means longer intervals of climbing at high gear with shorter recovery periods.  Most good spinning instructors will tell you to work with watts, and over time, you should be able to DOUBLE your watt output.  This means that you will be producing more power as you perfect your technique, and not, as you suggest, working less because you are getting better at spinning.   The larger the muscle, the more glycogen and energy it uses, which eventually comes from fat,once the carbs are depleted.

Cknowles says:

You are not completely correct.  The difference is a REAL RYDER SPIN BIKE vs a stationery spin bike.  The Real Ryder bike turns from side to side so you are working your upper body.  I have lost 35 lbs and 2 pants sizes.  It is safer than running because when done properly it is a low impact exercise.  Running for me is shin trouble! 

Jill Miller says:

I was new to spin and loved it at first and then my legs got huge and also added saddlebags!  I never had a problem with my legs but heard it was good for the core.  I admit my core tighted up a bit but my legs are just awful now!  Any advise on how to get my legs back to normal?  Running just seems to pump up my legs which pushes out my saddlebags even further!  help!  I wish I never walked into spin class.

?”All show and no go”…this is not an uncommon story I often hear this on the minardi beach workout as well. After an abundant 10 year professional athletic career and coaching now for over 12 years I have many colorful experiences. Some experiences with coaches/clients/athletes stick out more then others but here is one which you will find in the Minardi Training book Im writing I have even a better Treadmill story but you will have to buy the book for that one. I had spin class champion contact me about my cycling program and expressed interest in making the jump to actual outdoor cycling. This was a very experienced and seasoned “spinner” and as spinners usually are very defensive about their passion for spin. I tried to explain that there was a big difference between controlled environment spinning and riding a real bike outside.. I threw in all of the science and my experience at her such as power output, bike handling , balance, weather etc….She reassured me that she spins at the most hard core spin studio in NYC and she was plenty ready for the Minardi Group ride. Her spin instructor, who by the way was a former real estate agent, said so. I said fine lets see what you got under the hood We will start the training ride slow so you don’t get dropped. Well the big day finally came and she shows up all dolled up in her spin outfit. We are not even 15 minutes into a very slow warm up and I look back and ask the other cyclist where “sally” was everyone looked at me with the ” your the coach why you asking us”. So off in the distance I see a rider on the side of the road draping over her handle bars. I sprint up to see if she is ok and she screams at me ” Im exhausted ! I cant keep up ! this doesn’t make sense I have been the lead bike in my spin class for the past 5 years !”

Leskenn says:

How slow was your warmup ?
My spin classes are a lot like my turbo sessions on my indoor trainer. I get great racing fitness off those.

What was her problem ?

no power
no strenght
could not adapt from controlled environment  training to outside
no disco music

Alllimoo says:

Doesn’t the amount of calories that you burn in a spinning class correlate to how hard you are working?  I feel like, yes, I have become more efficient if I stay at the same resistance levels, but, I make sure that every time I go, I adjust the resistence level to where I feel the same amount of burn and wear myself out to the same degree.

OmNom says:

Misleading post. Here’s why…

The kcal/hr quoted for running is a full clip run — most people can’t hold this for more than 15min), while the cycling figure is for a moderate pace that represents a solid exercise that can be sustained for about an hour. A more representative running speed would be around 6mph, which is a 10-minute mile pace, a fast jog.

If you correct for rate of perceived exertion (RPE), the two sports are pretty similar in terms of calories burned (which makes sense, because ur body’s perceived exertion is a stimulus for feedback on effort/calories expended). Where they AREN’T similar is that running long term is brutal on knees, whereas cycling is very low impact.

If you must run, find a soft track or field that will be low impact, otherwise cycling is probably a better option for long term safe exertion.

nice work and much agreed-Coach Jimmy Minardi

Tasha says:

I find it funny how defensive spinners are. I totally agree that running makes you thinner.  Period.  And my entire body looks better as a runner; I’ve done both.  BUT I’ve always done 3 days worth of strength training.  Maybe do both each week if you love spin, but for total weight loss, running is the way to go.  BTW hshoe, keep up the spinning and it won’t be for long.  I was the same way, but after doing spin for a while, I was totally immune to the workout wipeout.

Glen Anderson says:

I’d like to point out this is a TERRIBLE comparison:

“Stationary Cycling (moderate intensity): 572 kcal/hour vs. Running 8 mph: 950 kcal/hour”

First, running 8mph is NOT moderate intensity for anyone except a trained runner.  If I were to run 8mph, as a 225lb clydesdale that’s MOVING.  That’s a 45min 10k pace, which is NOT an average pace… especially not for someone my size. That’s incredibly intense for an hour…

I do well over 1300kcal/hour on a spin bike (today I did 26.2miles in 60 minutes -very high intensity at about an AVERAGE cadence of 100, even when you factor in my 70rpm hill climbing times) vs. about 1400-1600kcal when actually cycling (outdoors) at my typical 18-20mph average pace.

There’s also a huge difference in risk of stress injury – running, especially at a high-intensity for the untrained runs a HUGE risk of stress injury, whereas cycling doesn’t have anywhere near the risk of stress issues… If you’re injured – whether it’s stress fractures or just shin splints, you’re not exercising and thus NOT improving your fitness or your body composition.

All in all, you can burn very similar calories IF you up the intensity – it doesn’t HAVE to be easy for people – keep your heart-rate in a target zone for your fitness requirements and simply push the resistance AND the cadence as you get more biomechanically efficient at it…

Shaunispreach says:

What makes an exercise burn calories and build muscle is the effort you put in not the excercise itself. If you lift two blocks for an hour everyday for 3 weeks the 4th week is gonna be easy. But if you add weight or do more reps you can still see gains. If you put in a ton of effort and are sweatin buckets and have muscle soreness the next day your makin progress. That’s all there is to it. The excercise doesn’t even matter it’s all about the energy expended.

Mike says:

What this guys is telling you is – stop spinning and buy his video, how to lose fat!!!! Rubbish!  The story is commercial, specially the pic of the guy’s legs. No-one should be so stupdi to make a decison to join a class or not without trying it first. 
Why people still believe the world to be black or white???

hunter99 says:

This is ridiculous, just Mr. Thomas trying to say something so outlandish to grab attention and have people read this nonsense.  BTW there are a lot of people who have ruined their joints running.  Any form of exercise is benefital.

Parisa_assemi says:

I think every single person needs to follow their own sport…Sometimes different sports work on different bodies types! I tried jogging,fast walking,Aerobic,Spin class and some Cardio moves but none of them worked…as I decided to go to a Yoga class! and result? you never belive this!

Princess of Power says:

Great article. Spinners take the path of least resistance.  I’m a road biker and last weekend I had a hardcore “experienced” spinner, who is used to her 50 minutes “cardio,” tell me she could smoke me on a road bike because of all her hard training.   Ohhh kay… So I loaned her my extra bike and took her on a real ride outside.  We got through about 15 miles of gentle roads against the wind, then up and down 2 or 3 miles of hills and she was gasping like a fish out of water, legs cramping,  I had to stop twice for her to catch up and recover. Was going going to do 40, but she was dead before reaching a lousy little 20 miles… 

Chadb7979 says:

I lost 51 lbs spinning last year!!! But I also did 75 pushups a day and alternated spin with inclinded treadmill walking.

Ldelgadolasvegas says:

6’3″ started at 295 lbs. lost 60 lbs with spin as my cardio.  Wasnt really that fat at 295 about 23% bodyfat and now sitting at 14% I will say that my legs got huge but I also lost a lot of weight in 4 months and had a good time doin it

ladyc says:

I consider myself a runner and I also consider myself a “spinner”.  I have been up and down in body weight and for me the most effective form of exercise for weight loss and shaping my body was outdoor running (besides weight training). I vary between performing sprint drills and 5-6 mile runs daily. Honestly I hate running which is why I switched to spinning because it’s a fun work out and I burn anywhere between 500-700 calories a session whereas in running I burn around 500 according to my heart rate monitor.

I will have to agree with the poster on this one.  With spin, I had bigger and bulkier legs a problem that I’ve had because of genetics and spinning added some of that bulk.  When I started running, my legs started slimming down.  My thighs went down from 24″ to 22″ when I started running and my calves went down from 15.5″ to 14″. 

If I want a fun cardio work out I opt for spin and I don’t mean to bash it, I really love spion class but running does it for me in terms of fat loss. 

Steff says:

Wow, as a fitness professional. This is ignorant and biased. And while I agree with the whole idea trying to be portrayed that essentially you need to work hard and build muscle strength, singling out spinning is ignorant. ALL exercise is effective if you work HARD and NO exercise is effective if you DON’T work hard.

Geoffd23 says:

Graeme, I don’t want to add to the negative comments, so I ‘ll just say that I personally like spinning because I’m 46 and my knees can’t take running. Spinning is an excellent alternative to running. And it’s fun!

graemethomasonline says:

Geoff – no worries with adding to the negative comments ;-)

Spinning is definitely a good cardiovascular alternative for people whose joints can’t handle the impact of running. And I should mention that I too go to a spin class every so often to vary up my own training.

As I’ve mentioned in numerous blog posts, the #1 consideration for determining exercise’s benefits for health is regularity. And frankly, it’s only once someone has achieved regularity with an exercise routine that they should stop to consider what is potentially a ‘faster’ route to particular health/aesthetic goal.

But as you’ve so correctly pointed out, everyone has different considerations to take into account when determining what’s ‘optimal’. My position is based moreso on that of a population level when I point out that the metabolic demand of running exceeds that of cycling, however when it comes down to a specific individual, the case can differ quite a bit!

Trail Dog1 says:

If you really want to lose weight, skip that 8 mph run in favor of a 4k swim at a 1:05 pace, right?

I would bet folks who can run a 7:30/mile pace (8mph) are not nearly as concerned with weight loss as, say, winning their age group in local 10-15k’s.  

A_j_kitson says:

Fundamentally, eat less, move more! Ensure calories in = less than calories out and the body will burn fat! Keep the heart rate within the training zone for a period of time and cardio fitness will improve! How this is achieved can be more or less effective, but saying it won’t work denies fundamental biological principles in favor of evangelical attitudes towards the “favorite” exercise trends of the moment!

Don’t tell people that have sweated and worked on a bike that it isn’t achieving anything. Not true, not cool!

graemethomasonline says:

If you re-read the article, you’ll see the argument made is that biking is less effective for calorie expenditure, and hence fat loss, than cycling.

The second point, is that if exercise time per week is limited and fat loss is a primary outcome, then choosing exercises that create a larger metabolic disturbance (or caloric expenditure) is a better use of one’s time.

And re: fundamental biological principles, the old adage that calories in = calories out is true in a closed system, which sadly is not the case when it comes to human metabolism.

With the vast array of mechanisms (metabolic & endocrine), humans are able to upregulate and downregulate the amount of energy used during both activity and rest. Therefore, although the machine or heart rate monitor might spit out a ‘calories burned’ number, it’s sadly only a rough estimate and can be off by as much as ~25%.

We even have a number of scientists calling into question the accuracy of our MET (metabolic equivalents) determination, due to the highly variable nature of metabolism from one individual to the next. Which introduces the question: are the calorie estimation equations we have for exercise really that much value??

Long story short, fat loss is far more complex than telling someone to simply eat less and more move. Although that’s a fair “ballpark approach”, the complexity of human life and inter-human differences require far more advanced, and often individual approaches, if the goal is to assist the largest number with the fat loss efforts.

Legalwright says:

Would love to go run but had to give it up about six months ago because of arthritis in my knees. ran for about 25 years. Began spinning 2-3x week and find it harder than running. What would you suggest instead? Swimming?

graemethomasonline says:

If you have access to a pool, swimming would be a great low impact choice to mitigate some of the knee pain you are experiencing.

You might also want to consider adding some form of resistance-based circuit training to your routine. If you keep the loads lighter but the rest periods short, you’ll still derive a significant cardio vascular benefit, all the while seeing increases in strength and potentially lean mass.

If done properly (i.e. gradually build up, don’t jump into too much too soon), you may even be able to strengthen some of the muscle around your knees (gastroc, hamstrings, quadriceps), which might offer some alleviation of pain.

If you aren’t super familiar with resistance training yet, it’s best to get a trained exercise professional in your area to help you get started. They’ll be able to watch your form and cue you to make sure everything you are doing is spot on!

ray says:

The problem with this article’s logic is most people aren’t constrained so much by time as by motivation.  If someone is dedicated enough to spend 30min running I agree it is more exercise than a  1hour spin class.  

But what the spin class gives is more of a commitment to finish the class with a relatively low barrier to entry.  People are going to finish the class and avoid the shame of slinking out the door versus most people just whacking the stop button on the treadmill when it gets hard.Along these lines, the spin bike is designed such that the pedals are directly connected to the wheel so it keeps your legs moving when you were about to give up for a revolution, versus just going into neutral on a stationary bike.  It is all for motivation.Now if you are truly the gym rat who is constrained by time rather then motivation; then by all means pick up some higher intensity workouts (plenty of modern new for those types of people).

ray says:

What is keeping 99% of people from losing weight is not the choice of one exercise over another, but any exercise versus no exercise. If you can find any activity that you can do and maybe is actually “fun” or enjoyable that keeps you burning some calories for the longer period of time, that is the trick to lose weight.  The spin class (or any other class for that matter) is a motivation trick, especially with the instructor pushing you on.  
Along those lines if you just go do any physical sport where the activity no longer seems like work, that probably is even a better motivator then classes. Only if you are a peak athlete where you are already in optimal shape for a particular sport and needing to reformat your body build does this article really apply.  Like say you’re a championship swimmer but now you want to run a marathon, you’re going to want to ditch some of that upper body bulk so you can be a better marathon running.  But 99% of us have plenty of fat to burn one way or another, just as long as we do something over nothing. 

graemethomasonline says:

Hey Ray,

What is keeping most people from losing weight has more to do with diet selection than a lack of exercise (trust me, the exercise physiologist in me doesn’t like to admit that but that data is pretty overwhelming in this regard).

In fact, I covered this point in a 3 article series a while back:
http://graemethomasonline.com/the-role-of-exercise-in-weight-loss-part-1/
http://graemethomasonline.com/the-role-of-exercise-in-weight-loss-part-2/
http://graemethomasonline.com/the-role-of-exercise-in-weight-loss-part-3/

Regardless of exercise’s potency as a weight loss tool (it may be more important as a tool to help you keep weight off once you’ve dropped some as a result of dieting), we agree 100% that the first step for everyone is finding a mode of exercise they a) enjoy and b) can be regular with.

Weight/fat loss is only 1 potential outcome of adopting an exercise program… and as you said, certain modes of exercise are superior for different goals (i.e. if you want to be a better swimmer, you sure a hell better spend more time in the pool and less time practicing basketball).

In reality, there are numerous health and well-being outcomes associated with regular exercise (of any kind), and I always endorse people to become regular with their routine before worrying about optimizing it for any particular goal.

Senge4 says:

But isn’t weight loss achieved by taking in less calories than we put out? So wouldn’t spinning be effective regardless I it doesn’t burn as many calories as running if we take that into consideration? No one is going to assume that spinning burns as many calories as running. As far as our bodies getting used to it- it is the same with all exersize. So wouldn’t it be BEST to do both spinning and running? (and swimming, and walking, and yoga, and eliptocal, etc etc etc). I don’t think spinning could possibly negatively effect weight loss as long as you do your research and math right.

graemethomasonline says:

Losing weight is about taking in fewer calories than you put out. However, this is more of a reality of physics than actually useful weight loss advice.

Just a few of the problems we have trying to “balance calories” is that the calories “burned” reported by cardio machines are generally inaccurate; the calories we ingest is next to impossible to measure accurately (most food labels are off by ~10%, most people don’t accurately measure/weigh everything they consume); and resting metabolism will upregulate/downregulate in response to an increase or decrease in calories… which is why long term weight loss is challenging (notice I didn’t say impossible, merely far more complex than you’ve been lead to believe).

All that aside, the article pointed out that spinning is less effective than running for weight loss. That doesn’t mean that someone can’t lose weight with spinning, but that in terms of cardio: weight supported activities (biking, elliptical, rowing) are less effective than running/stair climbing. Remember, there’s no ability to “coast” while running… unless you stop running. Whereas it’s easy to coast or use the machine’s momentum to do less work while spinning or using the elliptical.

But I do agree with you, doing multiple forms of exercise is best! And doing some of of physical exercise daily would be the ideal.

Unfortunately, too many people may only exercise 2-3 times per week and if that is someone’s reality and weight loss is their goal, spending more time jogging/stair climbing will result in better weight loss than hours on a biking or elliptical machine.

Stevev says:

This guy obviously has not been to a spin class and bases his opinions on two things, 1. a photo of a velodrome sprint cyclist who uses weight training to develop mass (not spin classes) and 2. “data” of calories burnt on a stationary bike which is WAY different than a spin class! There is a huge range in calories burnt from “stationary cycling” which really is no comparison for a spin class. There is also a large range of calories to be burnt from running.
Maybe you should pop into a spin class and prepare to have your ass kicked prior to developing and stating such false hypotheses.

graemethomasonline says:

Hey Steve,
As you correctly point out, there is a huge range of calories burned from “stationary cycling”, likewise, there is an equally huge range of calories burned in a spin class (unless your bike is equipped with a watt meter and your instructor is gauging intensity based on watts/kg body mass).

And of course, there is an equally huge range of calories burned by someone who jogs. But the bottom line is that lbs for lbs, a human burns more calories per minute jogging/running than they do spinning. This has to do with the amount of muscle mass involved in running + impact of gravity and ground reaction forces… factors which outstrip the forces on a human riding a cycle.

I at not point in the article suggest that spinning isn’t hard or can’t be a great way to train, I merely point out that when weight loss is a primary concern, your body will burn more calories running than it will cycling. This doesn’t make spinning a bad activity, just less effective than running.

Les says:

I’m going to have to take issue with the calories burned figures here.
You talk about 8mph as being par for the course for the average man.  I run marathons and have hit the qualifying time for Boston – but you’re really looking at just the top runners there. The peak of the pyramid.A more realistic pace would be something like 6 mph. 8mph is not a moderate pace – its race pace – as you’ve pointed out in your explanations. Interestingly – the Average finish time for the NY Marathon was 4hr 24 in 2009 – so that’s under 6 mph – and that’s a race pace. As to the calories burned on the spin bike – well who can say.  I know when I teach that my average HR is par with a steady run, and my HR Max is well above what I’d hit on a moderate run. The bits about there being no headwind is irrelevant also – YOU are in charge of the exercise – so the idea is to make your exertion match what you want to do. When you’re out on the bike there are no brake pads rubbing on a metal disc either – that’s what is standing in for the wind and road resistance. Spin is a good exercise – as is running. But the average body wont take day after day of running – it needs rest to recover. That’s where spin can come in – a great cardio workout without the impact of running. I’m not knocking running – its a great exercise and as you say good for burning calories – but so is spin. Most classes are 45 minutes long as that’s a good workout for people as it is such an intense session. Its not the same as a gentle spin on a bike. 

graemethomasonline says:

Hey Les,
Not really sure how you can compare the average run speed of 6 mph of someone running a 4 hr 24 min marathon to a 45 minute spin class. A more accurate comparison would be the running speed someone can maintain for ~45 minutes… which for most males of reasonable physical shape, ranges in the 7.0-8.5 mph range.

Cheers

Rachel says:

This is some great advice – if you’re healthy enough! My problem is this: I have a bad knee and a bad foot (past tendinitis in the latter with dwindling cartilege and current tendinitis in the former). My orthopedist and PT have both told me that I need to stick with walking, elliptical and biking (I go stationary because I don’t own a bike and admit I’m a little afraid of biking on the busy streets of my neighborhood). I weight train (and I’m not afraid to go heavy) and do some other miscellaneous exercise, but I do have limitations on my cardio. What can someone like me do?

graemethomasonline says:

Hey Rachel,

The simple answer for almost everyone looking to lose weight is always “improve your diet” (not saying that to be mean, it’s just the truth). Very few people experience any significant fat loss success using cardio as a primary exercise tools, a point I covered in a recent post: http://graemethomasonline.com/ladies-cardio-sucks-for-weight-loss/

What I generally recommend people do is aggressively work on improving the quality of the diet, adjust portions if necessary and resistance train with more of a metabolic focus (going for 6-12 reps while minimizing rest intervals).

By minimizing rest between sets of resistance training, you are subjecting your body to a significant cardiovascular and metabolic waster removal challenge… both of which have positive impacts on energy use via exercise. And as a side benefit, you get muscle growth/preservation – something typically lost from large amounts of cardio.

So in summary: clean up the diet and resistance train using very short rest periods. You may be surprised at how effective this strategy is!

Tormond says:

Sweet Graeme,
That was very nicely cleared up.

If someone is just trying to drop fat, do you suggest they should spend their time doing cardio or lifting weights.
Obviously it is best to mix in both, but if you only have five hours of gym time, should they spend the time on the treadmill or lifting weights?

graemethomasonline says:

Hi Mitch,

If you have a solid 5 hours per week for working out each week, what I would recommend is finding a way to get 3-4 sessions (not necessarily the full hour) of weight training, then using the remaining time for energy system work.

From a real-world impact perspective, spending 40-45 minutes lifting weights (with reasonably short rest periods if possible… no 3-5 minute breaks), followed by lighter cardio actually does work for fat loss. Notice that I’m okaying lighter cardio here, only when it is preceded by intense, glycogen depleting physical activity. A full hour of light work is not at all the same thing (unless it’s a designated recovery day).

On a fat-loss day when you’d rather do just cardio, I suggest going for more of an intense piece (be it treadmill, stairs, skipping, hard bike intervals can also work… but they must be hard). Same idea applies… 20-30 minutes of hard work, which can be followed by 10-15 minutes of lighter work if desired.

So on the whole, I think finding 4 days to do intense work (resistance training and/or intervals) + lighter cardio (if desired) and 1 day of a lighter cardio workout or recreational sport to help with recovery is a good, sustainable approach to using exercise as an adjunct to fat loss.

Hope this makes some sense.

Mitch says:

Graeme, you usually have really sound advice; however I find this blog to be severely flawed.

The principles that you used for your argument are sound but your implementation of them are flawed.

1) Spinning doesn’t entirely take body weight out of the equation. (unles you are using a recumbent bike, or are sitting for the enitre 30min). Most spin classes, if taught by a good instructor will have you standing, hovering or “bouncing” for at least half of the class. This puts body weight back into the equation.
I know that non-weight bearing excercises use less calories, but are there really studies that show that it will not help you lose weight?

2)You mention that a major adaptation to spinning is larger leg muscles. THAT IS AWESOME. What better way to burn fat then to have a larger “furnace” (your muscles) burning calories through out the day. As you have mentioned time and time again, its not the calories that you burn during the workout that matters the most but the ones that you burn after. Obtaining larger leg muscles will drastically increase the amount of calories burned outside of the gym.

3) Your comparison between running and cycling is a bit out of left field, as running at 8mph is quite fast and anyone trying to lose weight will have a hard time running that fast for anymore than 5minutes. Also what is meant by moderate intensity, and how does that compare to the sprint of 8mph?

Cheers

GT says:

Hey Mitch,

Glad to have to back! Now to address you concerns:

1. The point of the article is not that spinning can not assist with weight loss, because any activity superimposed on a fixed calorie diet can lead to weight loss. The point I was making is that if weight loss is a primary goal and you have limited time for physical activity, opt for running or stair climbing ahead of weight supported activities like biking/elliptical.

2. Although you and I may think that developing quads that Atlas himself would envy, this isn’t typically a desired outcome for many females. To boot, although you see numbers tossed around like “1 lbs of at burns 35-50 calories while a lbs of fat burns 1-2 calories”, in reality the number of additional calories burned at rest for muscle are quite a bit smaller. Recent estimates for increased metabolism with each additional lbs of muscle are suggesting 6-13 kcal, which means that on the high end, even an extra 5 lbs of muscle might only lead to an increase in resting metabolism of ~65 kcal… or three strawberries worth of food.

Now if you are suggesting that one should take that increased muscle mass and routinely expose it to large volumes of exercise, thereby turnover over glygocen and glucose with reckless abandon… and now I’d buy that metabolic cost argument. But at rest, there’s only a surprisingly modest increase in caloric effect.

3. 8 mph is the speed we’ve found males deem “comfortable” and use in the lab as a starting speed for jogging during our incremental exercise tests. At this speed, we see VO2 increase to ~50-60% of maximal. This level of intensity, is a speed that could be maintained for an hour + (obviously familiarity with running plays into your ability to tolerate long distances, but from the cardiovascular system’s perspective, you can easily tolerate this running speed).

In order to actually challenge most males, we must ramp the incline of the treadmill up over 7-12 minutes, so that by the tests conclusion we have people running at 8 mph at an incline of 10-12% grade.

In fact, at 8 mph for an entire marathon distance (26.2 miles), it would see you finish in ~ 3:16:30. While this seems like a quick marathon time, for a male under the age of 40, would not even allow you to QUALIFY to enter the Boston marathon. So if the slowest guys in Boston are maintaining a 8mph pace for 3+ hours, we could reasonably assume that keeping this pace for 30 minutes is quite realistic for most males of average fitness.

Long story short, 8 mph is not all that fast for a man, hence why I termed it moderate intensity cardio.

Hope this clears up some of the confusion.

Lzlhe says:

Obviously, you are not a runner. Anyone who calls a 7:30 pace moderate is either Usain Bolt or completely off their rocker.

RaShann says:

I totally disagree with you. I am a runner, and in December was certified as a spin instructor. Since that time, I have dropped 4 lbs and an inch in the waist, hips and legs. I teach five classes a week. I have run a couple of half marathons and used to run 40 miles a week at under a 9 minute mile. I never lost the weight as quickly as I have with spinning, and I am not dieting.
I have had several students tell me about the change in their body from my class as my club is doing a “weight loss challenge” right now. They also tell me they are not eating that much differently as they were trying to watch what they ate before the challenge. So sir, I beg to differ being a runner and spinner. You put effort into it, bring up that heart rate to where it needs to be you will burn fat, period.

GT says:

Rashann,

I’m glad that incorporating a different exercise (spinning) has allowed you to experience a body recomposition. One of the major problems with exercise volume is this:

too little: doesn’t expend enough calories to make a meaningful difference for weight loss
too much: drives hunger high which results in a compensatory increase in calories consumed

So quite often, people involved in marathon training (with the 12+ hours of physical activity they do per week) end up compensating and overconsuming food, despite the large energy output (this effect is more pronounced in females than males, but can happen in both sexes). Therefore, the switch to more spinning has possibly dropped your weekly exercise volume into a more manageable 5-8 hour range, likely giving you personally better appetite control. Given that you mentioned you are not “intentionally” dieting, this improved coupling of energy intake to expenditure would explain why you are now dropping weight at a better clip.

In terms of your students, it’s also entirely possible that they are seeing good body composition results. But as they are deliberating fixing calories at a pre-determined level for this weight loss challenge, any increase in exercise volume during a period of fixed caloric intake will result in weight loss (again, as long as it isn’t a ridiculous increase in weekly exercise volume). And remember, I never said you can’t change your body with spinning – the point I made was that for individuals who only are spending 2-3 hours training a week (the typical number for a community dwelling gym-goer), the caloric outlay in spinning isn’t any near as robust as running… so choose running when total weekly exercise volume is modest.

Hope this clears it up and thanks for the comment!

Heidifelene says:

You are weong, i have lost 45 lbs spinning this past year.

Lori says:

Thanks Graeme for the information. I have never done a spinning class probably for the same reasons you mentioned. I would rather go for a fast walk/jog outside and get some Vit D.

Heidifelene says:

You are SO wrong. I lost 45 pounds this year when I started spinning, and i have several people in my classes that have lost a minimum of 30.

Badgirl469 says:

That’s because you were really fat.  When fat people start working out they lose tons at first because their body isn’t used to the intensity.

Igor_sydney says:

 Fully agree! Running could be hard for many people, while spinning you have much more control of your workload. Just try it yourself, 3 times a week, several months, you’ll see the result.

ray says:

Seems like a very close-minded attitude.
You should try it at least a couple times then consider how much of a workout you got or if it was fun, before writing it off.

graemethomasonline says:

Hey Ray – never did I mention that spinning can’t be fun, nor do I say you can’t get a good workout from spinning. The point I made (which is the one supported by about 60 years of exercise physiology research) is that running leads to a greater caloric expenditure than cycling.

For a couple of good reads, check out
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8618368
http://www.brianmac.co.uk/energyexp.htm

There are plenty of activities that can be considered fun (trying to squat on a stability ball, doing handstand push-ups, golfing, etc) and others that be a great workout (doing heavy singles for deadlifts, practicing yoga for 90 minutes, even going hiking for an afternoon)… but when fat loss is a goal, none of these activities would be primary tools used by a personal trainer or coach.

But like I tell everyone, if spinning is the only type of cardio you’ll regularly do: then by all means continue! Being regular with something is better than chronically avoiding “more effective” types of exercise. But when you place a premium on weight/fat loss, running and stair climbing do seem to trump weight supported types of exercise.

Jacbutty says:

You have no idea what r u talking about! I have 2 kids and a six pack from spin only

graemethomasonline says:

Jacbutty – that’s great that spinning has worked for you!

But remember, when discussing advice to the population as a whole: it’s always necessary to go with research done on populations consisting of hundreds (if not thousands of subjects) ahead of one person’s personal history.

And to be fair, genetics plays a greater role in our response to exercise than anything else. There is a reason why NBA basketball players are almost all over 6’0 and have vertical leaps of 30+ inches, why unless you are over 300+ lbs and can bench press 225 lbs over 25 times, you can forget about being an NFL lineman or why all elite marathon runners carry nearly identical builds.

Obviously, all these individuals excel in their chosen domain. But if you have a build suited to be an NFL lineman, there is no chance in hell you’ll ever medal in the olympics running a marathon.

Does this mean a 6’4, 300 lbs person could never run a marathon? Of course not. They can run one, but their genetics will prevent them from ever developing the elite VO2 required to excel in marathon running, not to mention the substantial challenge in trying to fuel that much mass over a 26.2 mile effort.

So while genetics won’t prevent someone from getting better at marathon running, ultimately genetics will determine just how far (or how much) of a response your body will experience when subjected to an exercise stimulus.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that certain individuals will respond to spinning quite well, because their genetics allow for it. But on the whole (when looking at the entirety of our North American population), there are far more effective exercise and diet approaches for producing fat loss.

hannah says:

you have children and you type like that? wow. hope they go to a good school…

hshoe says:

I can run for 8 hours (and qualify for Boston in the marathon) and I just took my first spin class, did three hours but I am more wiped than a three hour run.  Sometimes just changing what you are used to is good…. For fat loss, I actually see best results from strength training despite minimal Calorie burn; though it IS what my body is most suited to… I can (and have) run 100 miles a week with no weight l.

graemethomasonline says:

Great commentary. As a coach who deals primarily with weight loss, I too find that strength training is a more powerful tool for body recomposition than any form of cardiovascular training.

Of course, the really significant tool for changing body composition is diet, but pairing some strength training with an appropriate calorie/macronutrient diet does seem to work wonders!

Deirdre494 says:

I have been doing spinning with the last 2 yrs and have just given it up as my legs were getting too big! Obviously muscley.. dresses were starting to get too tight around my upper leg area. Also a number of girls in my class who are overweight and have been doing spinnning as long if not longer have not lost any weight from what i can see!!!

Maria says:

Spinning is a great cardio work out!  You get out of it what you put into it-if you don’t push yourself you will not burn the calories and if you are not sweating your butt off you are not working hard enough!  This goes for any work out.  Spinning is a great cardio work out and  good for cyclists during the winter, I am a cyclist -no its not the same as being outside this is correct but its a good substitute when we cant go outside!  Spin is a awesome calorie burn!  I usually burn at least 800 cals in an hour.  Running is not for everyone and running is hard on the knees and feet.  

Dave says:

Perhaps mention the advantages of specificity of training to the millions of cyclists out there. Balancing cardiovascular, musclular endurance/ strength AND fat burning instead of developing and possibly gaining weight by increasing muscle mass in areas unnecessarily. Running is not cycling.

Cknowles says:

Try a spin class on a REAL RYDER bike which turns from side to side working your upper body, arms and core muscles.

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