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Spinning: A High Calorie-burning Workout

Imagine cycling on a long stretch of blacktop with no cars to encumber your ride. While navigating the hilly terrain over the next thirty to forty minutes, you will stand up at times to pedal. As spirited music boosts you along, you'll feel energized and exuberant. When your workout is over, you'll have had a vigorous workout and safe ride without ever leaving the gym!

What is spinning?

Spinning is a high calorie-burning workout for people of all ages and fitness levels. It uses special spin cycles that, unlike stationary bikes, perform like road bikes. For this reason, spin cycles offer the exerciser a more complete workout. For example, riders of stationary bikes sit upright and primarily use the large muscles from the knee to the hip (quadricep muscles) and muscles at the back of the leg from the knee to the ankle (calf muscles). Spin cyclists, on the other hand, sit in a racing position and lean forward toward the handlebars. When resistance is at its greatest during the spin workout, the cyclist is free to stand up out of the saddle, using muscles in the back, chest, upper arms (biceps and triceps), buttocks (gluteus maximus), entire legs, and abdomen. With more muscle groups engaged, the heart works harder as it sends oxygen-rich blood where it’s needed.1

Herman Falsetti, MD, a cardiologist specializing in sports medicine, fitness, and wellness, measured the intensity of a workout of beginning spinners. Study subjects had been spinning for less than 6 weeks and were recreational, noncompetitive cyclists. Falsetti's study showed that female spinners burned an average of 450 calories and male spinners burned an average of 550 calories per 40-minute workout. Heart rates for the male participants, ages 41 to 46, were an average of 162 beats per minute. Four female participants, ages 25 to 28, had an average heart rate of 178 beats per minute. "These results indicate the spinning workout provides a very high heart rate response and high calorie expenditure, " says Dr. Falsetti.2,3

Getting Started With Spinning

Be sure to get a checkup with your doctor first if you are new to exercise or getting started back to it after a break. Then investigate the options at local gyms to find out about the kinds of spin classes they offer. Many gyms offer dynamic spinning programs designed to accommodate everyone from beginners to trained athletes. Ask the spin instructor which class is best suited to your fitness level and schedule.

To get the most from spinning, enroll in 2 spinning classes per week — one for endurance and one to build strength. A 1-hour endurance class simulates riding on a flat road with low resistance and a 65% to 75% target heart rate. Endurance training such as this is ideal for burning fat.

More intense classes such as strength, interval, and all-terrain training last 45 minutes and aim for a target heart rate of 75% to 85%, 65% to 92%, and 65% to 92%, respectively. Race Day classes are also offered for conditioned cyclists interested in sprint training, with a target heart rate of 85% to 92%. The objective of each of these classes is increased cardiovascular strength.

To determine your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220. This figure represents your theoretical maximum heart rate. To burn fat, you should exercise at 75% of your maximum heart rate. Exercising at higher percentages of your maximum heart rate will build cardiovascular strength.4

Spinning Equipment and Costs

Although spinning requires a moderate financial investment compared with walking or running, its superior results make the investment worthwhile.

Some gyms include the cost of spin classes in their membership fee, whereas other offer spinning for an average $25 per class. Prices will vary depending on your location and membership requirements.

Padded cycle shorts (a must, say many spinners) can cost up to $50 and padded seats are available for as little as $10. You can ask the spin instructor what he or she recommends to ensure that your spin workout is comfortable.

Heart rate monitors average $60 to $120. 

Spin Zen

Because you need not worry about road and traffic safety during your spin workout, you are free to focus on the music, get lost in your thoughts, or clear your head and think of nothing at all — an advantage that allows many spin exercisers to rid themselves of stress!  

If you want to improve your fitness,
ad spinning to your weekly exercise routine
for a challenging and inspirational workout!


1. About Spinning. http://www.spinning.com/en/about_spinning. Accessed November 8, 2012.
2. Falsetti, H. Heart Rate Response and Calories Burned in a Spinning Workout. Johnny G Spinning® Instructor Manual. 1999.
3.  Falsetti, H, Blau S, Burke E, Smith K. Heart Rate Response and Caloric Expenditure During a Spinning Workout. Johnny G Spinning® Instructor Manual.1999.
4. Burke E. The Spinning Program. Johnny G Spinning® Instructor Manual. 1999.