Best Exercise Bikes for Seniors

When looking for an exercise bike, seniors should pay special attention to how adjustable it is to ensure they can ride in a comfortable position

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Elderly person using a stationary bike Photo: MoMo Productions/Consumer Reports

If you’re looking to spruce up your home exercise routine with a machine that will help you get an excellent cardio workout, it’s hard to beat an exercise bike

They can provide a flexible workout that’s accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels, says Michael Rogers, PhD, a professor of human performance studies and the research director for the Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State University. “One great advantage of these is the variety they offer,” he says. “They go from the very beginning stages, for someone who has not been on a bike ever, all the way up to the more advanced classes that have high-intensity-type activities.”

One perk of bikes compared with treadmills is that even a high-intensity workout is still low-impact exercise, which may be preferable for seniors or anyone with joint pain or certain other health problems.

And the health benefits of regular workouts—like those you can do on an exercise bike—are substantial. Routine exercise has been tied to improvements in blood pressure, joint mobility, body weight, cognitive acuity, and more, according to Rogers.

What Makes ‘Studio Bikes’ Different

Recently, home exercise bikes that duplicate the experience of riding a road bike—referred to as spin bikes or studio bikes—have become popular. These bikes position the rider in a way that’s more like riding a traditional bicycle than other stationary bikes, and they come with a magnetic flywheel that helps make pedaling feel realistic as you adjust the resistance level.

More on Home Fitness

One particular draw of these bikes is that many have built-in internet connectivity and come with a screen that allows you to join live or on-demand exercise classes. On these bikes, your performance metrics—like calories burned, speed, heart rate, and distance traveled—are stored, so you can track your progress over time. (See our top picks in exercise bikes.)

These connected systems are appealing for several reasons, Rogers says. The built-in classes can provide the motivation that helps inspire some people to keep exercising. And the metrics can show you how you’re improving, which can also provide a motivational boost. Plus, joining a live class adds a social component to a workout, he says, similar to what you’d get joining a class. 

Some exercise bikes come without a built-in system, which allows you to set up in front of your TV or a window, whatever your preference may be.

Some of these bikes also come with attachments to store dumbbells or other equipment. Even if you’re getting a great cardio workout, incorporating strength and balance training into your routine is essential, Rogers says. 

Special Considerations for Seniors

Try before you buy. While it’s a good idea for everyone to try a bike before buying it, that may be especially true for seniors, says Bernie Dietrich, who oversees exercise bike testing at CR. An uncomfortable or poorly fitting bike could deter workout motivation and cause pain or exacerbate physical problems, Rogers says.

Look into trainers. People who aren’t experienced cyclists may want to consider a session with a personal trainer, who can help adjust a new bike to the right position, assess fitness levels, and recommend classes at an appropriate starting level.

Study the adjustability score. The six spin-style exercise bikes rated by CR did relatively well in our testing. But seniors in particular may want to pay special attention to the adjustability scores, which reflect the ability to adjust handlebar height, seat height, and seat position.

On these bikes, you generally lean forward in a way that may be uncomfortable for people with certain back problems. Because of that, a bike that allows the rider to sit a bit more upright may be preferable, Dietrich says. Rogers points out that in general, raising the handlebars higher means you don’t have to lean forward as much.

Find a comfy seat. Another factor that seniors may want to consider is the comfort of the seat, or saddle, Dietrich says. A narrow racing seat can be uncomfortable for some. While some bikes come with a wider seat out of the box, you can swap out the seat on any of these bikes for one that you find more comfortable.

Don’t forget the pedals. You should also pay attention to the pedals, Dietrich says. With some bikes, like the Peloton, the built-in option requires you to use clip-in cycling shoes. Others have toe cages that you slide your regular athletic shoes into. (It’s possible to swap out the pedals, according to Dietrich, but you’ll need the right wrench and know-how to do so.)

Consider a recumbent. People with certain back problems may find a spin-style bike too uncomfortable no matter how the position is adjusted. For these cyclists, Dietrich and Rogers recommend looking into exercise bikes that allow you to ride in a recumbent position, reclined instead of leaning forward. These bikes—which aren’t currently included in our ratings—may also be more appropriate for riders with balance issues, Rogers says.

3 Great Exercise Bikes for Seniors

Of the exercise bikes tested by CR, here are a few picks with features that may be preferable for senior riders. CR members can check out our full ratings and reviews of exercise bikes


Head shot image of CRO Health editor Kevin Loria

Kevin Loria

I'm a science journalist who writes about health for Consumer Reports. I'm interested in finding the ways that people can transform their health for the better and in calling out the systems, companies, and policies that expose patients to unnecessary harm. As a dad, I spend most of my free time trying to keep up with a toddler, but I also enjoy exploring the outdoors whenever possible. Follow me on Twitter (@kevloria).