Spin classes continue to grow in popularity across the country, and for good reason. Spinning is a challenging, highly intense form of exercise that has been shown to burn more calories than most other forms of exercise. More importantly, spinning is both an aerobic and anaerobic workout, meaning it’s both endurance and resistance training all wrapped up in one workout. While the benefits of spin classes have made the rounds in the national media, there exists some evidence that not all is well in the spin world. Here we will explore two benefits and two dangers associated with spin classes.
Benefit: Spin classes have immediate physiological effects
What makes spin classes different from cycling outdoors is that there are no distractions or elements that can stop an exerciser in their tracks. This means those who spin indoors exert themselves more continually than cyclists. This also means that there is little to no opportunity to rest during such exercise.
A recent study has shown that one hour of spinning consistently produced more of a specific blood marker, called Troponin T, that is produced in high-level athletes such as marathon runners. This blood marker is associated with an increase in vascular repair, which in turn may lead to better vascular health. Therefore, spinning and spin classes may be exceptionally beneficial to overall health and fitness with less time spent exercising.
Benefit: Spinning can make fit people fitter
A surprising finding from yet another study about spinning has shown that even the fittest among us can improve with spin classes. The study looked at trained adults — people who were very physically fit — and incorporated spinning into their routines. Incredibly, every participant made measurable improvements in their fitness as a result.
While the study authors admit more research needs to be done on the subject, the study is a good indicator that even the fittest among us can benefit from spin classes.
Danger: Spinning might be too hard for some people
While the benefits of high intensity training look good on paper, they often ignore the dangers associated with rigorous exercise. For those who are just getting started in fitness, an intense spin class could be more than they can handle.
This fact has been highlighted in a study where fitness newbies were asked to participate in high intensity training spinning. What researchers found is that this form of exercise consistently overtaxed the participants’ vascular systems beyond what is beneficial.
Danger: In fact, spinning could be deadly in certain conditions
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which intracellular muscle constituents leak into the blood circulation. It is primarily caused when people who are out of shape suddenly exert themselves too much and cause significant trauma to their muscles.
Spin classes have recently been associated with a sudden rise in exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis cases. As published in The American Journal of Medicine, more and more gym-goers with little to no experience spinning are trying out the new trend and winding up in the hospital in need of dialysis.
This may sound scary, but the reality is that rhabdomyolysis is actually quite rare. Most people will give up before pushing their bodies too far. However, it should be understood that physical fitness is a gradual endeavor. It takes time and careful consideration to improve. Jumping into an activity that is too hard or too intense is counter-productive to promoting health and fitness.
Should you try a spin class?
The answer is yes. However, be sure to take stock of your current physical fitness level and limitations. Communicate with the instructor any concerns or considerations you may have. Most important of all, set the resistance on your spin bike to a level that is tenable for your fitness level. Work your way up to more resistance over multiple sessions.