Spin classes, good or bad?

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Spin classes, good or bad?

06th May 2010
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I have witnessed a spin class on many occasions whilst I have been in the gym and I must admit they never appealed to me. When I see the bikes being hammered I always think that it can’t be good for joint health for example.

Spin machines

On the flip side, it does seem like a quick way to burn a lot of calories (some studies shown about 500 calories per session) so I can see why it would appeal to people who want to lose weight quickly.

So are spin classes good or bad? In my opinion I would avoid them for the following reasons:

  • What I call the “compensation” effect. What I mean by this is that sometimes the tendency arises of “more calories burned allows for more calories to be consumed”. This isn’t true of everyone, but I have seen it so many times. The classic phrase “you can’t out train a bad diet” is especially true here as the type of food you eat potentially has more impact than the amount of calories eaten. Mark Sisson in the Primal Blueprint talks about the negative impact chronic cardio can have on metabolism and how it can actually make you crave more sugar!
  • Stress, whilst exercise is a stress reliever, excessive cardio can cause stress levels to rise (the fight or flight response). This in turn can impact the immune system, which I witnessed firsthand in people who do a lot of high intensity cardio such as spinning. I personally do high intensity weight training and I have had one cold in the last 12 months!
  • Injuries. Spinning really traumatizes the knee joints in particular and the body isn’t equipped to deal with all the repetitive strain that exercise at this intensity provides. I have seen a lot of people have muscle fatigue and joint pain as a result of too much spinning.
  • The psychological aspect. I have already mentioned stress but also it’s the dependency on this type of exercise that can cause problems as well. Sometimes we perceive that exercise has to be a certain way and of a certain difficulty when in reality, we have not evolved to follow any sort of structure. If we constantly believe that we need to bash out 500 calories per session, we could be putting too much pressure on ourselves and risk burn out.

I believe that as part of a balanced exercise programme, it is important to have some high intensity exercise in there. This is due to our bodies being equipped for the occasionally sprint due to genetics. The points made above are in relation to continued high intensity exercise as it just isn’t practical, or healthy.

I personally wouldn’t do weight training five/six times per week because of muscle fatigue. I believe sometimes exercise is seen as a struggle and needs to be fast paced and strenuous. If we keep trying to punish ourselves then we may not ever see the real long term benefits of a sound healthy lifestyle.

The key for me is balance. A good personal trainer can structure a balanced programme for you so you achieve your goals and maintain a healthy body and mind.

- John Hill, Inspiring Fitness Birmingham Personal Trainer