Peloton Low Impact Rides (And why you need them)


There are several reasons why you need to add more peloton low-impact rides to your workout schedule. In this article I will clarify does Peloton has low impact rides, and if so, why they are so effective.

As a whole, peloton does have over 700 low impact rides that last between 10 to 45 minutes. The low-impact rides can be used for both beginners, as well as for advanced cyclists as an active recovery workout to reduce exercise-induced muscle fatigue.

Keep reading to learn how adding more low-impact classes can help you not only lose weight but also maintain your results and improve your performance.

What Are Peloton Low Impact Rides?

In general, the peloton low impact rides are a series of classes where you gradually build up the aerobic capacity while keeping the output low. The goal of this class is to stay in moderate-intensity but still get good cardio from light intervals.

Think about your low-impact rides as an opportunity to scale down, focus on the correct technique, and develop a habit of consistency in your workouts.

All peloton low impact rides are in the saddle, which is a good option for people recovering from the knee or lower back injury, as well as for heavier people who struggle to stand while riding the bike.

The benefits of peloton low-impact rides include elevated energy expenditure, reduction in muscle fatigue and soreness, as well as an addition for the high-intensity and climb classes. They are also a great way for beginners to get started.

I think it is also more realistic to do a low-impact ride for 20 to 30 minutes per day, rather than HIIT training that will make you sore for days.

What I like about low-impact rides is that they aren’t as easy as you would think. Scaling down doesn’t mean the workout is a breeze. In fact, you still get a good sweat because during the low-impact rides your output should stay around zone 2 to 3.

This is equivalent to endurance and tempo training.

Are Peloton Low Impact Rides Good For Beginners?

The peloton low-impact rides are good for beginners because they allow doing 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which is in line with the WHO recommendations. Plus, moderate intensity is sufficient to stimulate training adaptations for untrained individuals.

Let me explain.

Training adaptations are the health outcomes that occur after training and include things like increased exercise capacity, better performance, or a more efficient exercise economy.

People who just getting started with fitness have a big advantage because they experience better results from doing less amount of work.

An interesting study compared a group of untrained women (new to exercise) and the difference in training adaptations from doing the leg curl at an intensity of 50-75%. Women were divided into two groups.

  • Group A did a leg curl exercise for one single set of 10 repetitions (three times per week).
  • Group B did the same exercise but three sets of 10 repetitions (total 30 reps) three times per week.

As you can see, the results in lean muscle mass showed that in the in early-phase of training (first 10 weeks) there was no significant difference between doing one versus three sets (Cannon 2010).

This means that if you’re a beginner, you get the same health benefits from doing low-impact rides as you would do from doing more intense peloton classes.

However, it’s much easier on the joints, and you’re less likely to feel sore after low-impact rides because it’s less strenuous for the body.

Peloton Low Impact Ride vs Beginner

The difference between peloton low impact rides and beginner rides is that beginner rides focus more on learning the basics of correct indoor cycling form and helping you get more comfortable while maintaining low intensity.

On the other hand, the peloton low impact rides are focused on moderate-intensity, while progressively adding more cadence or resistance. One thing that is in common in both rides is in the saddle position.

I would recommend doing peloton beginners rides for people who have never done indoor cycling classes before. The low-impact rides are for people who did cycling class in the past, but they are not an expert yet.

Here are other differences between low-impact and beginner rides.

Peloton Low-impact RidesPeloton Beginners Rides
Interval training with moderate-intensity
Class duration up to 45 minutes
Power output between zone 2 and 3
Great for all levels
Steady-state workout
Class duration up to 20 minutes
No power output requirements
Great for beginners
Peloton Low Impact Ride vs Beginner

Are Peloton Low-Impact Rides Good For Losing Weight?

Another great benefit of doing low-impact rides that you should consider is weight loss and weight maintenance.

The peloton low-impact rides are a good way to lose weight because they help to increase the energy expenditure that helps with a calorie deficit. They also help to suppress the appetite, and when combined with resistance training, helps to maintain the results for longer.

The best low-impact ride for weight loss is with Sam Yo because in his 45-minute class he uses light weights for arms and shoulders.

Adding arms exercise with a light resistance helps to increase the metabolic stress on the muscle, without overtraining.

He also gives a good balance between cadence and bike resistance to keep the power output challenging, but not too strenuous.

Please remember that one important element of successful weight loss is calorie intake. And this is when it starts to get interesting.

Many studies have shown that increased high-intensity exercise over a long time leads to energy compensation (Doucet et al. 2018).

What is energy compensation? In general, energy compensation is an adjustment in the calorie consumption (increased desire to eat) induced by the rapid increase in energy expenditure (intense training), as well as a prolonged calorie deficit. Calorie compensation often leads to regaining weight.

Now watch this.

I’ve spent several hours researching what are the predictors of energy compensation. Most of the studies showed big discrepancies and highly variable results between people who completed the study.

Here is the graph.

(Schubert et al. 2017)

As you can see, the results show very large individual differences.

If we gonna go a step further, the primary finding from this research shows that the main predictors for negative energy compensation were the duration of the intervention (number of weeks) and low-intensity physical activity (variety in different types of physical activity).

Let me explain.

  • People who did HIIT workouts for a short period of time (less than 25 weeks) and included other low-intensity physical activity had negative energy compensation (Rosenkilde et al. 2012).
  • People who did HIIT as their only type of workout, and did so for more than 25 weeks had positive energy compensation.

Those findings suggest that doing HIIT is effective, but only initially for a short period of time, or at least combined with other low to moderate-intensity types of exercise.

Doing only HIIT for the first few weeks may feel like an ideal workout program. But over time there are more diminishing returns because the body fails to recover at the optimum level.

I like to call it the honeymoon effect.

This brings us to another benefit.

Are Peloton Low Impact Rides Good For Recovery?

As a whole, the peloton low-impact rides are good for recovery because they help to balance the workout intensity, improve aerobic fitness, and speed up the recovery process. They also help beginners to get started, reduce the risk for injury and prevent overtraining.

If you’re just getting started with peloton rides you should consider adding more moderate intensity sessions to your workout schedule.

Doing a high volume of high-intensity rides increases the demand for recovery and lowers the performance in the long run.

Not only that.

High-intensity rides significantly increase your heart rate, as well as the production of blood lactate. This is great for fat burn and performance because lactate is a strong metabolic signal essential for training adaptations (Wiewelhove et al. 2018).

However, with more frequent higher intensity workouts, the body needs more time to recover from neuromuscular fatigue.

What is neuromuscular fatigue? In general, neuromuscular fatigue is the inevitable consequence of doing a physically demanding high-volume exercise with no efficient recovery period. The body is unable to maintain the optimal level of strength and intensity to perform an exercise.

In other words, high-intensity workouts are more taxing on the body, where low-impact rides help to balance the output, therefore, enhance performance.

Here’s how it works.

A fascinating study done by Callum George Brownstein, a post-doctoral researcher in exercise physiology from Northumbria University, documented a group of competitive soccer players and the effects of the recovery time on their neuromuscular fatigue.

The results showed that intermittent bouts of high-intensity exercise lead to significant impairments in the central nervous system, and require 48 to 72 hours to resolve (Brownstein et al. 2017).

In other words, for more intensity, you need more rest.

The results were measured by TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), as well as performance (jump and sprint).

In the graph below you can see the overall muscle fatigue before training, immediately after, and then up to 72 hours later, one day at a time.

As you can see, it takes up to 72 hours to optimally recover from one session of high-intensity exercises. On the other hand, moderate-intensity sessions don’t exhaust the muscle so much, therefore, you can do it more frequently.

This means if you’re training to lose weight you should not neglect the peloton low-impact rides because they allow you to recover faster and be more consistent, without overtraining.

Just because you can go hard, doesn’t mean you should. At least not with every workout.

In the next graph, you can see similar results for muscle soreness.

As you can see, the muscle soreness also needs more time to bounce back to the baseline. This means if you choose to skip the low-impact rides and focus only on the HIIT, you can only train 1-2 times per week at optimum performance.

I think is wiser to do the opposite. Trim the intensity and add more duration. This way you can train more often, burn more calories, and have less muscle soreness.

Doing low-impact rides at 40-55% of maximum heart rate doesn’t create neuromuscular fatigue and doesn’t tax the body.

Also, keep in mind that training while you’re sore isn’t the best approach. Studies have shown that during fatigue, muscle contraction can be reduced by up to 90% (Miller et al. 1987).

That’s because of the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Muscle soreness lowers the ability to create peak torque because it reduces muscle and joint range of motion. It also lowers muscle peak contraction.

I don’t think you should completely avoid high-intensity rides. I think the best way is to combine low-impact rides with your regular HIIT sessions.

Peloton Low Impact vs Recovery

The difference between peloton low-impact rides and recovery rides is that recovery rides stay at the same intensity throughout the whole class. This session is designed for people who recover from long-distance or race workouts.

I won’t be covering here all the details about recovery rides. I’ve already done that in my article “best peloton recovery classes“, which I recommend you read.

Best Low Impact Peloton Instructors

I think that the best low-impact peloton instructors are Christine D’ercole and Matt Wilpers because not only do they make you feel comfortable, but also share a lot of practical tips. Training with them helps you understand that alternating high and low intensity is just part of the process.

Both of them are professional endurance athletes that understand the importance of balancing the intensity to improve performance.

Best Peloton Low Impact Rides

Ok, so you understand the importance of doing low-impact rides. Now let’s look at what are the best low-impact classes available in the peloton up to date.

10 min Low impact Ride with Matt Wilpers

This class is only 10 minutes long but it doesn’t mean it’s not effective. This class is perfect for people who need a pick-me-up alternative to coffee or jogging in the middle of the day.

If you have access to the peloton bike during the day, then it’s a good idea to spend 10 minutes in the saddle, especially when you feel like a nap.

I find that 10 minutes is enough to wake me up, doesn’t strain my muscles and I can still have my regular workout.

45 min Low impact Ride with Hannah Corbin

I like to do 45-minute rides in the morning before I hit the office (I mean coffee shop). Doing steady-state cardio helps to lubricate my joints, clears my anxiety, and gives me the energy for the day ahead.

If I have less time, I would do some more intense classes like a HIIT or Tabata ride. But when I have all-time in the world then I like to take it easy and just enjoy the ride.

20 min Low impact Ride with Christine D’ercole

That class is great for a combination before or after your strength training session, and I recommend doing it 3 to 4 times per week.

As a whole, you should be doing strength training together with peloton rides because not only it helps to maintain your lean muscle mass, but also improves muscle protein synthesis.

It also helps to suppress your appetite and reduce hunger.

Conclusion

When it comes to weight loss, I personally think it’s better to keep the intensity low and focus on the duration. That’s why I strongly encourage doing more low-impact rides.

Not only do they help to enhanced athletic performance, but also improve aerobic capacity.

Sometimes it’s better to scale down and not worry about being number 1 or burn the most calories.

Also, people who combined interval training with low-impact rides tend to have lower calorie compensation, which is important for the long-term results.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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