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You'll burn calories even if you're seated on your bike.
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Pedaling a bike requires energy, so you're guaranteed to burn calories no matter how you do it. Even when seated, you can still expect a significant calorie burn from cycling. If you want to increase your calorie burn, however, you can mix your workout up by standing as you cycle or by wearing a weighted vest.
Calories Burned Seated
When you pedal an exercise bike, even while seated, it will raise your heart rate and cause you to burn calories. Researchers for the American Council on Exercise performed a study comparing the calories burned on an exercise bike while seated versus standing. The study found that the average participant in the study burned 10.3 calories per minute pedaling while seated. Over the course of a 30-minute session this would work out to a 309-calorie burn.
Although pedaling your bike in the seated position will burn calories, you can up your calorie burn by standing as you pedal. ACE researchers found that standing cyclists burned an average of 11.3 calories per minute -- an increase of one calorie per minute compared with standing. Although this may seem minor, it's an increase of approximately 10 percent. In a 30-minute workout, this is equal to an extra 30 calories burned.
Increasing the Burn
If you want to increase your calorie burn even more, adding weight is a potential solution. ACE researchers added weights to standing cyclists. There was no significant difference when they added weights equal to 5 and 10 percent of body weight. But when cyclists used a vest equal to 15 percent of body weight, while standing, they increased their calorie burn to 11.6 calories per minute on average.
Keep in mind that the average figures won't reflect your personal calorie burn. Subjects in the ACE study weighed 126.39 pounds on average. If you weigh more, you will burn more calories, and if you weigh less, you will burn fewer. If weight loss is your aim, know that you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. To lose weight at a safe rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, you should create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. This includes calories burned in exercise, as well as calories cut from your diet.