Want to lose weight quickly, tone and strengthen your body? Then all you have to do is feel the force. Dr Nathan Johnson, of the University of Sydney and spokesman for Exercise & Sports Science Australia, says spinning "hits the sweet spot, it's just the type of exercise we'd like people to do. The more power you create, through applying resistance and pedalling faster, the harder your body has to work to burn up fat and sugar from your body's stores."
Classes are about 30 to 60 minutes, during which time you'll burn about 1000-2500 kilojoules; that's your morning cake and latte dealt with. And if you're eating healthily and burning an additional 2100 kilojoules a day, you're in line to shed about two kilograms a week.
"Spinning is basically cycling, and like any aerobic exercise, the body burns fuel at a quicker rate when working out." According to Johnson, spinning helps you manage or lose weight and gets your heart rate pumping for cardiovascular benefits.
Feel the force
A spin class won't magically give you supermodel proportions, though. "It's a great activity, but there's a misconception with many people and even instructors about how it should be done appropriately," Johnson says. Surprisingly, the spinning part of your workout is not where the benefit comes.
"The benefits come from pedalling against resistance," Johnson says. "The harder it is to push the pedals around, the more energy you use. The more power you create pumps blood faster through your body, and your body uses your fat and sugar stores to feed the movement."
The problem, he says, is that you can hop on a bike and pedal with no resistance but spin your legs fast, so you're not expending much energy. "If you free-wheel there's still some aerobic benefits, but people get the impression that they've had a really good workout just because they're sweating or panting hard. But without generating force, you won't burn much energy."
So how hard should you be working? "I've seen instructors encourage 120-150 revolutions per minute, but you're just spinning your legs faster at the expense of resistance. During the main phase, after the warm-up, always try to work out somewhere between somewhat hard and hard by adjusting the resistance."
Researchers have known for years that if you enjoy an exercise, you're more likely to stick to it. If you've ever ridden a stationary bike in the gym, you know how boring it can become – and how easy it is to slacken off.
"At Vicious Cycle we have created an environment that connects mind to body," owner Tanya Weeks says. "A dark, intimate space allows you to ride in your own space, without mirrors, clocks and lights distracting you. Many clients describe it as a nightclub on a bike, through the use of music, coaching and television screens to keep you engaged. Before you know it you have ridden through a series of hills, races and intervals and barely realised you've worked at such high intensity, because you've been so caught up in the excitement."
Spin bikes are also different to your usual ride. "Spin bikes have a flywheel which allows tension on the bike as you ride and the ability to change gears," spin instructor Leanne Sklavenitis says (fitnesstips.com.au). "The ones I use start at gear one and go all the way up to 24, which for many the wheel is impossible to move at that level. The bikes are manufactured to try to be as close as possible to a road bike as you can get. The seats are often more comfortable."
The best news of all
So you're toned, buffed and highly motivated, all from your spin classes. What else could it possibly offer? In research at Tel Aviv University, researchers found that endurance exercises, such as jogging or a spin class, help you look younger. They believe endurance exercise increases muscle stem cells and enhances their ability to rejuvenate old muscles. This improvement of stem cells helps us to look younger.