This article was in need of a big refresh – and that’s exactly what we gave it! This included revamping the content in our guide and adding to our FAQ section, bringing everything up to date.
We also added two new models to our chart – both from Exerpeutic. These comprised the incredibly comfortable midrange bike, the Exerpeutic 4000, and its popular budget brother, the Exerpeutic 900XL.
Staying fit during your senior years can be trickier than when you were younger – but it doesn’t have to be impossible.
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While some seniors enjoy jogging, using ellipticals or weight training, others prefer to climb into the reclined seat of a recumbent bike and enjoy a low-impact but effective cycling workout.
There are loads of great exercise bikes out there, some of which are perfect for seniors. In this article, we have narrowed these down to seven of our favorite recumbent models, to give you some inspiration ahead of making a purchase – whether for yourself, or an elderly friend or family member.
After this, we will run you through everything you need to look out for when shopping around, as well as answering some of your questions in our new FAQ section.
Height: 4ft 10” to 6ft 3”
Resistance: 25 levels
Features: High-inertia flywheel, dual backlit LCD displays, 29 workout programs, heart rate monitor, built-in speaker system, adjustable padded seat, adjustable fan, USB charging port, media shelf, 325lb maximum user weight
Our list begins with one of the more expensive models in this category – the 270 from Schwinn. However, the performance, comfort and features make it feel like money well spent.
The 270 offers a classic recumbent design with a comfortable ventilated seat and incredibly easy adjustability thanks to the sliding rail. The 25 levels of magnetic resistance offer more than enough challenge for even the fittest senior, while the step-through design makes climbing on an absolute cinch.
The main console may look a little complex, but it’s very easy to use and offers everything you need to control your cycle. This includes quick digital resistance controls and two clear backlit LCD screens to offer you some insight into your workout.
Height: 5ft to 6ft 3”
Resistance: 24 levels
Features: Precision balanced flywheel, Air Soft seat, 12 preset workout programs, heart rate monitor, LCD screen, transportation wheels, media shelf, 325lb weight capacity
While other models on this list may offer more in the shape of secondary features, the Exerpeutic 4000 focuses on one thing that some recumbent bikes oddly struggle with – comfort.
This comfort is instantly apparent as you recline into the thick ‘Air Soft’ padded foam seat, while padded armrests and a mesh backrest ensure you are kept cool and comfortable throughout. Getting on and off is hassle-free thanks to the open step-in design.
However, don’t forget about the exercise! A precision-balanced flywheel, V-belt drive and 24 levels of magnetic resistance take care of delivering a smooth and quiet workout. The central console offers straightforward controls, a clear screen and a gel-padded media shelf to hold your phone or iPad.
Height: 4ft 6” to 6ft 6”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: High-inertia flywheel, adjustable seat, dual backlit LCD displays, 22 preset workout programs, heart rate monitor, USB charging port, adjustable fan, media shelf
Nautilus is another big name on this list, providing a very good recumbent bike for seniors with the R614. What’s more, it comes in at a more wallet-friendly price than our top picks.
The R614 features an easily-adjustable vented seat on a sliding rail, catering for a wide range of heights (up to 6ft 6”). In action, this one performs very well, with a high-inertia flywheel for a smooth and quiet ride, 20 levels of magnetic resistance and 22 preset workout programs, all selectable via the main computer console.
Secondary features are also great for the price, with two clear LCD screens to offer workout data, as well as a media shelf, USB charging port and a cooling fan.
Resistance: 24 levels
Features: Self-regenerating system, adjustable seat, adjustable gripped pedals, 23 preset workout programs, LCD screen, heart rate monitor, adjustable floor levelers, transportation wheels
Marcy’s ME-706 is another popular affordable recumbent bike with great style and a performance to match. The sturdy steel frame is relatively easy to move around (transportation wheels are included), although solid enough to take users up to 300lbs.
This bike is great if you are conscious about energy bills as the self-regenerating system means no external power is required – your pedaling is all it needs! This power charges the large backlit LCD screen, which displays your workout data clearly, with simple pushbutton controls to tend to your resistance.
The performance is very good for the price, with an ample challenge offered – 24 levels of magnetic resistance keeps the ride smooth and quiet. A total of 23 workout programs offer a good challenge
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: 11lb flywheel, push-pull handlebars, oversized padded seat, non-slip pedals, LCD screen, heart rate monitor, media shelf, transportation wheels, 350lb maximum weight capacity
A general negative of exercise bikes in general is that they do not allow for a full-body workout. However, models such as the SF-RB4708 from Sunny Health & Fitness exist to change this! With movable push-pull handles, this bike adds a welcome upper body component, while also allowing you to isolate your arms if you prefer to give your legs a rest.
The step-through design and oversized padded seat make it comfortable to use. There are just eight levels of magnetic resistance, adjustable via a manual slider below the central console.
With no need for digital controls, this console is very easy to navigate with a clear LCD screen offering workout data. You can also use a tablet/iPad with this bike, although the device will block the LCD screen when in use.
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Powder-coated steel tube frame, adjustable padded seat, adjustable weighted pedals, 3.5” LCD screen, workout metrics, transportation wheels, 300lb maximum weight capacity
Another hugely popular Marcy bike on this list happens to be one of the most affordable. While the lower price of the ME-709 means it lacks some of the comfort and convenience-enhancing extras found on other recumbent bikes, it still offers a solid low-impact workout at home.
The lightweight and easily-transportable frame can hold users up to 300lbs, while the step-through design makes it easy to get on and off. Workout metrics are displayed on a 3.5” LCD screen – it’s not particularly big, but clear enough.
The eight levels of magnetic resistance reflect the lower price, but this still allows for some workout variation. If you are working to a tighter budget, or simply don’t want to spend more on fancier components, the ME-709 is a worthwhile consideration.
Height: 5ft 3” to 6ft 6”
Features: Precision balanced flywheel, large pedals, LCD screen, heart rate monitor, transportation wheels, 300lb maximum weight capacity
The Exerpeutic 900XL remains one of the most popular recumbent bikes on the market due to its surprisingly good performance and wallet-friendly price tag.
Of course, comfort levels aren’t as high as its more expensive brother – the 4000 – yet it still offers a large padded seat that’s easy to get onto thanks to the step-through design
The 900XL offers eight levels of magnetic resistance, which is about what we’d expect in this entry-level price range. Due to the budget price, there’s little in the way of secondary features here. However, you will find a basic but clear LCD screen, as well as a heart rate monitor built into the handles to offer some feedback on your effort levels.
Our chart above offers a good cross-section of the current recumbent bike market, and a few suggestions of quality models that may be suitable for your needs.
However, in this section, we are going to arm you with the information you need to narrow things down and make your own decision.
While most of our bike guides split the focus between the three main types of exercise bike – upright, spinning and recumbent – this guide only highlights the latter design. This is because recumbent bikes are undoubtedly the best for seniors.
Recumbent bikes are the more relaxed and comfortable design of the three, removing the load from your lower-body by placing you in a reclined (laid back) position. This means that even if you struggle with arthritic joints or other mobility issues, you won’t have to miss out on a cycle.
In general, all recumbent bikes offer the same fundamental design, where the seat is reclined so that your weight is distributed more evenly over a larger area. The pedals will remain slightly lower than the seat and you will find handlebars either side of you.
Any good recumbent bike for seniors should offer a step-through frame. This means that you won’t have to lift your leg over the frame to seat yourself. Instead you can walk ‘through’ the frame and sit down on the seat, as you would a regular chair.
This is particularly useful if you suffer joint issues and have trouble lifting your leg. Imagine the hassle trying to jump onto a tall spinning bike and you will see what we mean.
Believe it or not, you can also find recumbent bikes that fold to save space. These are great for small homes and condos, yet they lack some of the stability and secondary features you’d find on a non-folding model. Currently, we do not feature any folding models on our list.
Some seniors may scoff at the idea of resistance and would prefer to go about their cycling with no resistance at all. However, aside from moving your legs, there is very little benefit to working out with no resistance.
For starters, you certainly won’t get the aerobic benefits from pedaling against nothing. Also, you may end up pedaling too fast, which puts you at risk of injuring yourself.
In our opinion, the best recumbent bikes should offer a good selection of resistance levels to select from.
Even if you never plan to use them all, having up to 25 levels of resistance is excellent, knowing that there is no limit to the challenge the bike can provide. However, even eight levels of resistance will be enough for many seniors.
Regardless of how many levels you have, the bike will offer a system to control this resistance. On higher-end models this will be digital, allowing you to push a few buttons from a central console. On lower-priced exercise bikes you will either find a manual dial or slider.
As for resistance type, more often than not you will find the bike will feature magnetic resistance (also referred to as ‘magnetic tension’ or ‘eddy resistance’). To keep things simple, this just means that the bike relies on magnets to create resistance as opposed to a physical brake (such as a piece of leather or felt) found on direct-contact resistance bikes.
The advantage of magnetic resistance is that it is consistent, smooth and quiet, while also requiring no maintenance. This is why the majority of models we recommend are magnetic.
The height range of a bike simply refers to whether or not it will cater for your height. If you are too short for the bike, you will not be able to comfortably reach the pedals. If you are too tall for it, then things will feel cramped.
Thankfully, unless you are particularly tall (over 6ft 6”) or very short (under 5ft) then you shouldn’t have a problem with the bikes on our list.
While we always attempt to highlight the user specifications of each bike, not all brands detail the exact height range of their bikes – so it can be a bit of a guessing game.
If this is the case, and the height range is ‘unspecified’, then browsing user reviews can sometimes give a glimpse into whether or not the bike will cater for your height.
Also, while 99% of recumbent bikes will offer it, be sure you are buying a bike with an adjustable seat and possibly adjustable handles, which will allow you to find the best fit for your body.
As we have mentioned, if you are buying a recumbent bike, you will find a few controls on a central control module, usually positioned directly in front of you.
If you are buying a higher-end bike, this panel will offer digital controls for your bike’s resistance level. You will usually find ‘precision controls’, allowing you to gradually increase the resistance (for example: from level 2, to level 3, to level 4). Sometimes you will also find ‘quick controls’, allowing you to jump resistance levels quickly (for example: from level 2 to level 11).
If you are buying a cheaper bike, then you can expect manual controls in the form of a dial or a slider, which you will have to push, pull or twist. These controls will usually have the resistance levels labeled, making it easy to find the level that suits you.
In addition to controls, a control module will almost always feature an LCD screen of some sort. This is present to give you some information about your workout. For example, it will display the time you have been cycling, the speed you are going, the distance you have reached, and so on.
This kind of information can be very motivating. For example, perhaps you see yourself beating a time from your previous session, or going that extra kilometer.
Meanwhile, if your bike has a heart rate monitor (see below), this LCD screen will also display heart rate feedback.
The size and quality of the display screen reflects the price you pay. Spending around $500 will usually offer you a larger screen (sometimes two) with more detailed information and a backlight. Spending considerably less will give you a smaller screen with less detail and probably no backlight.
Because recumbent bikes are slightly more relaxed than, say, a spinning bike you can usually expect more features tailored towards comfort and entertainment.
Like with other aspects of the bike, the secondary features are heavily tied to the price you pay. Spend under $200 and you can’t expect much more than a padded seat and basic LCD display.
However, as you add more to your budget, you can expect more in return – especially when it comes to comfort. You will find thicker seats with more ventilation, mesh backrests and even padded armrests that make the bike feel like an old armchair!
Regardless of the price, one of the most often-seen secondary features on a recumbent bike is a heart rate monitor. These are the metal sections usually found on the side handlebars. Placing your hands onto these pads will record your heart rate and feed the data to the LCD screen.
As we always advise, these systems – even on higher-end machines – are rarely pinpoint accurate. If you are trying to work to an exact heart rate zone, you may be better off with a chest strap monitor. However, these integrated monitors at least offer you some insight into your workout and are a welcome feature.
You will also find cooling fans on many midrange recumbent bikes. If you start to get warm during your exercise session, a little cool air blown in your direction can be a godsend.
Entertainment is a big part of long-duration sessions. If you are sitting back for a 45-minute cycle, chances are you will want something to watch or read while doing so. A more expensive bike will usually cater for you in this respect.
They will offer a media shelf/rack, which is there to hold an iPad (or any similar smart device) in place, so you can watch a program or read a webpage.
Some will go a step further and offer built-in speakers so you can connect your smart device and listen to music while you exercise. Others will offer a USB charging port, so you can plug in your device and not be afraid of it running out of juice while you are using it.
Let’s be realistic here – these are all desirable features.
However, they should never be the sole reason you purchase a bike. The truth is that you can always put a lower-priced bike in a room with a TV, fan and stereo system. Still, if the bike offers you the core performance you need at the right price for your budget, then these are great features to have.
At Fitness Verve, we don’t like to tell seniors what they can and can’t do. Ultimately, seniors have been around and exercising a lot longer than us – and could probably teach us a thing or two!
If you are a senior with good mobility and cardiovascular health, there is no reason you shouldn’t go for a good upright bike or even a spinning bike.
However, many seniors do struggle with various mobility and health issues and, despite wanting to exercise, may find the intensity and more demanding positioning of these bikes less appropriate.
This is why we believe a recumbent bike is the best style of exercise bike for seniors. These bikes remain very low-impact, while significantly reducing the load placed on the knees when compared to a different bike style.
They are also more comfortable for longer sessions, with padded seats and wide backrests – often with padded armrests to go along with it.
Recumbent bikes also usually feature a ‘step-through’ frame, which means you don’t have to attempt to lift your leg up over the frame to sit down. Instead, you essentially walk into place then sit, as if you were sitting in a regular chair.
Regardless of how well we treat our knees, everybody is susceptible to knee conditions, especially as we grow older. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse for missing out on a good workout!
In fact, movement is highly recommended by the Arthritis Foundation and similar bodies. Plus, you may well have been given orders to lose some weight in order to help treat your arthritis. As cardio workouts can help you burn considerable calories, there really are no excuses to avoid a workout.
The good news is that you don’t have to further harm your knees to enjoy some effective exercise.
As we have said many times in the above article, any kind of indoor biking is good for people with knee issues, along with machines such as ellipticals. The low-impact action of biking makes it the ideal movement for joint pain, especially when compared to something like walking or jogging on a treadmill.
However, even upright and spinning bikes can cause some pain for people with arthritic knees. This is why we recommend recumbent bikes, which reduce the load placed on the knees by reclining your body. In this position, it is the machine that takes the weight of your body as opposed to your knees.
You can therefore easily move your legs, boost your endurance and burn calories, all while not enduring the pain other exercise may cause.
It goes without saying, but if you do happen to suffer from arthritis in your knees – or any joint condition – please consult a physician before starting a new exercise program. If you go on to begin a recumbent bike exercise regime, always remember to warm up and cool down properly.
As you first sit back onto your new recumbent bike, you may be confused. How far back should I sit? Where should my legs be positioned?
This is a significant issue, because being too far forward or too far backwards can result in an uncomfortable and even painful ride.
A good recumbent bike will feature an adjustable seat to cater for multiple heights. However, whereas the seats on upright and spinning bikes adjust up and down, the seats on recumbent bikes adjust forward and backwards.
To find your perfect position, you will want to ensure that you are fully reclined so your back is supported by the backrest. Then stretch your feet out towards the pedals.
Adjust the seat forwards or backwards so that your feet are in the pedals and your legs are slightly bent. They should never be straight, nor should they be severely angled. Aim for an angle of around 25-degrees when your foot is in the lowest pedal position.
You may have been advised by a doctor to lose a little weight, which can do wonders for your joint health and overall fitness. If you are a senior, you may have your eye on a recumbent bike as a good means to do that.
First off, understand that weight loss all comes down to calories. To lose weight – or, more specifically, fat – you must be in a consistent calorie deficit (where you consume less calories than you burn). A 3,500 deficit over a week (500 calories per day) will see you lose 1lb of fat.
The good news is that recumbent bikes are a good means of burning calories, which contributes to weight loss when combined with a good diet.
Everybody burns calories differently – a lot of it is down to how much you weigh already and how hard you are working. However, roughly, a 150lb person will burn around 330 calories per hour while pedalling at a moderate pace.
A heavier person will burn more calories, while a lighter person will burn less. Going at a higher intensity (whether that’s increased speed or resistance) will also burn more, while a more casual ride will burn less.
In short, even a mediocre session on a recumbent bike will help you burn a handful of calories. More than sitting on the sofa would anyway!
However, no amount of exercise will help you lose weight if your diet isn’t in check. Spending 30 minutes on the bike is great, but if you are going to enjoy a burger and beer after it, you are unlikely to lose any weight at all!
If serious weight loss is your goal and you have nothing affecting your mobility, you may also want to consider a different form of exercise, which may burn more calories than a recumbent bike.
For example, you may wish to explore a spinning bike, which is a much more demanding workout and will offer a more significant calorie burn.
If you’d prefer something gentler, a good elliptical workout will allow you to stand and incorporate your upper body, while still remaining very low impact.
There we have it – the complete guide to recumbent bikes for seniors. We hope this article has offered you a taste of what is worth your time when shopping for a new recumbent bike.
Our chart offers a good mix of seven of our favorite models, although there are many others on the market. Don’t be afraid to have a good browse around, as there may be something better suited to you!
Whether you are buying for yourself, a friend or family member, keep our advice in mind before making the purchase and you will end up finding a great fitness partner to enjoy during your senior years.