Making New Year’s Resolutions?

Spinning is a popular indoor cycling group exercise class that is taught in nearly every health club across America. Even if you have never participated in a class, you have undoubtedly heard about it or seen one as you peek in on a darkened gym full of people riding shiny chrome bikes, facing their instructor and intently listening to every cue that can be heard above the music.

What is it about these classes that devoted spinners find so appealing? And are spinning classes a beneficial workout for people with diabetes?

Physical and Cardiovascular Benefits

Spinning uses a set of movements and positions along with heart-rate training to provide a workout for all levels of fitness. Participants in a 40-minute class burn an average of 500 calories.

As with any exercise class, spinning is not a perfect fit for everyone. Not everyone enjoys riding an indoor stationary bicycle with a group of people at the gym, the instructor shouting encouragement over the music as you do your utmost to maintain your pace while sweat pools under your bike tires.

Spinning isn’t like outdoor cycling, where you have time alone to reflect on your day, to breathe fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the landscape. But outdoor cycling routines can be disturbed by periods of bad weather, which can lead to lapses in your workouts. For many people, outdoor cycling raises other concerns: worries about safety and sharing the road with cars; fears about falling or getting injured; what to do if you find yourself too far from home without the energy to complete the return trip.

Spinning, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on the weather, so you can always get your workout, rain or shine. And you don’t have to worry about traffic, careless drivers or potholes. A good instructor can motivate you to challenge yourself more than you would when riding alone, and being in a group can fuel your determination to keep going.

Guided imagery used in class can take your mind to many different places, adding to the experience and relaxation.

A class can also be beneficial socially, as you will meet others who enjoy being active. In a class, you don’t have to worry about finding your way home, and it’s easy to stop any time you need to take a break to rest or refuel.

Benefits at Any Level

Melissa Fritz, a “Mad Dog” certified spinning instructor of six years for Gold’s gym, says that indoor cycling classes are “beneficial for any level. Participants can set the resistance [on the bike] at their own comfort level and challenge themselves from there.”

Another benefit of spinning is that you can ride along steadily without worrying about stoplights, traffic or other people or vehicles. Fritz says that an indoor cycling class allows for a “more consistent cadence for a longer period of time.”

The Talk Test

This cadence should be such that your heart rate increases to the level that will provide the most benefits. The “talk test” is an easy way to gauge if your heart rate is in the correct range. You should be able to carry on a conversation with someone while you exercise. If you can’t talk without difficulty, you’re working too hard and need to decrease your intensity level. If you can sing, you’re not working hard enough and need to increase your intensity.

Spinning for Health, Fitness and Fun

Whether your personal goals are weight loss, reduced blood pressure, decreased blood glucose, cross training, overall fitness, stress management, or competition training, spinning offers a challenging and effective workout.

For more information about spinning, visit these Web sites:

A typical spinning workout:

  1. Five minutes of warm-up
  2. Thirty to 40 minutes of high-intensity cycling
  3. Five to 10 minutes of cool-down
  4. Stretching on the floor

The 30- to 40-minute intensity segment can vary from a steady climb up one steep hill, to many hills and anywhere in between. Instructor Melissa Fritz enjoys the high energy level and that “everyone is working together toward the same goal of completing the class.”

Biking Found Beneficial for Type 2s

The effects of bicycling on patients with type 2 were studied and reported in the July 1998 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. Seven obese men with type 2 diabetes and seven healthy men participated in 30 minutes of bicycle exercise. The study found that glucose uptake gradually increased over pre-exercise levels for the diabetics.

To make spinning classes more enjoyable:

  • Wear padded bike shorts or bring a gel seat.
  • Bring a towel to wipe away sweat.
  • Arrive early for instruction on seat adjustment, tension level and cadence recommendations.
  • Pace yourself and listen to your body. Do your own workout—you aren’t competing with anyone.
  • Expect to be sore the next day due to the new exercise. Stretch after working out and relax in a hot bath.
  • Continue to cross-train to allow muscles and joints time to recover between classes and to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Keep bottled water and a snack handy. Drink plenty of water before, during and after class.
  • Be sure to wear your medical identification bracelet. Introduce yourself to the instructor before class and inform her of your condition so she will know what to do if a problem should arise.
  • Schedule your workouts for the same time every day if possible.

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