How To Use A Recumbent Bike For Physical Therapy

A recumbent bike is a versatile piece of exercise equipment used in physical therapy clinics, gyms, and homes. Whether you are recovering from an injury or have specific fitness goals, a recumbent bike might be an excellent option for you in your health journey. Physical therapists love them because they are easy to use and have a ton of potential benefits.

What is a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bike is a stationary bike designed to simulate riding a bike while sitting in a more supported option. Instead of sitting over the top of the pedals like an upright bike, there’s a bucket seat you sit in while putting your feet in pedal straps directly in front of you. This position makes it easier to get on the bike itself.

Most recumbent bikes have a lever for turning the seat 90 degrees. This allows you to sit down and then pivot the entire seat to face the pedals with minimal strain or impact. Additionally, some bikes have seatbelts if needed for safety. Once you pick an appropriate position for your leg length, you can simply place your feet in the pedals and start riding. If wanted, you can adjust the resistance or even choose a specific workout program.

The Benefits of a Recumbent Bike

You may be wondering whether a recumbent bike or upright bike is a better fit for your needs. Both offer great general benefits related to building lower body and core strength, cardiovascular health, weight loss, and injury recovery. However, there are some specific benefits that the recumbent bike can offer that other exercise equipment doesn’t. These include the following:

  • Resistance training for the legs without straining the back, hips, or knees
  • The lowest impact option for a piece of exercise equipment- making this an excellent option for post-injury recovery, mainly when there are weight-bearing restrictions from your doctor.
  • Safety with exercise without the risk of a fall- particularly great for anyone with balance issues or has recently suffered from a stroke or other major health incidents.
  • Increased circulation to stiff and sore joints for optimal tissue health and healing
  • Great cardiovascular benefits, even for someone with low endurance

Physical Therapy and the Recumbent Bike

Physical therapists (PTs) utilize stationary bikes as a tool in helping patients in their recovery process. Most commonly, the cycle is used as a warm-up before further personalized exercise recommendations. When recovering from a back, hip, or knee injury- especially if surgery was required- the recumbent bike is a significant first step in building tolerance for activity and gradually increasing the range of motion of any affected joints.

Depending on a person’s prior fitness and function level, the recumbent bike may remain a vital rehab tool throughout the recovery process. Otherwise, a PT will attempt to progress the difficulty of an upright bike and other higher-level weight-bearing activity.

Staying on Top of Your Recovery and Goals

Working with a physical therapist has been shown to reduce recovery time and boost long-term results after an injury. They can give you a personalized program that helps adequately address your deficits and reduce future re-injury risks. This provides you with the accountability to work toward your rehab goals and the confidence to continue with a program even after formal discharge.

Once discharged, it is up to you to keep up with a regular exercise routine that fits your specific fitness level, injuries, and goals. If you want to continue using a recumbent bike after you’re done working with a physical therapist, you can see what’s available at your local gym or purchase one for regular use at home too.

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