Exercise Instruction: Stationary Biking

See video

Tip: Print out this form so you can follow along as you watch the video. The instructions on this form can be a helpful resource while practicing this exercise.

Conditioning Exercises: Stationary Biking

Current guidelines for low back pain include recommendations to begin aerobic conditioning soon after the onset of low back pain, usually within two weeks. It can also be helpful for long-term back pain. Aerobic conditioning is often recommended to help avoid the potential debilitating effects of back pain. If you’ve been assigned to ride a stationary bike but don’t have access to one, consider instead a walking program in which you choose a slight incline for your path. A slight incline will enable you to walk while keeping your low back in a slightly flexed position.

How can I benefit by learning this exercise?

For most people, riding on a stationary bike is natural and easy. Keep in mind, however, that stationary biking is not for everyone with back pain. It can help relieve the stress that often goes along with back pain. Riding on a stationary bike also helps get your muscles and joints working safely, which can relieve swelling and associated pain. It also helps your body release endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins are the body's own natural painkillers.

How do I perform this exercise?

Start out slowly and with a low resistance setting. When you’ve begun to increase the intensity of your biking program, consider keeping a log of your time and distance while riding the stationary bike.

How many and how often should I do this exercise?

  • Sets: 1
  • Repetitions: Work up to 20 - 30 minutes
  • Perform: 1 time per day

Are there other recommendations I need to be aware of?

Stationary biking is not for everyone with low back pain. In fact, people with disc problems may actually experience increased symptoms due to pressure on the spine while sitting in the flexed posture assumed while riding on a stationary bike. At first, the goal is to gradually increase the amount of time you ride, not how hard or fast you’re riding. When you've comfortably worked up to riding 20 or 30 minutes, you may want to increase the intensity of your stationary biking program. If so, you'll need to calculate your exercise intensity. To do so, familiarize your understanding by studying the skill titled “Calculating Exercise Intensity.”

What should I watch out for while doing this exercise?

Monitor how your back feels during and after you ride on the stationary bike. If you feel increased back pain or leg pain, discontinue the exercise, and consider other forms of aerobic exercise such as walking.