Fitness trends come and go with the seasons, and spinning—stationary indoor cycling—has steadily been gaining popularity amongst busy professionals, students, and fitness enthusiasts. It’s easy to see why: spinning classes are like gym session–rave hybrids. Loud music bounces against the walls of a darkened studio while an instructor guides the class with drill-sergeant-meets-hype-man energy. The workouts are high-intensity and sweat inducing. Once you’ve clipped into your bike—literally, you must wear special shoes that clip onto the pedals—you’re officially strapped in, and it can feel like there is no turning back. Spin classes employ the ride-or-die mentality with a splash of “yaass queen” attitude; there’s constant movement and, depending on the difficulty level, an increasing level of resistance throughout the workout.
In many ways, the ubiquity of spinning studios has come to reflect the perpetual hustle mentality of modern society. In all other aspects of life, we’re constantly on the move and pushing ourselves to our limits, so it would make sense to imbue this into our fitness regimens. And as with most mainstream trends, spinning brands have seen their fair share of internet criticism, the most recent of which came in full force against at-home bike start up Peloton after the company released a holiday ad many have claimed as sexist and privileged.
But all that aside, what are the benefits of spinning, really? A 2008 study on the physiological responses during indoor cycling of healthy women found that the low-impact, high-intensity nature of spinning was an effective method of exercise. But for those with an underlying cardiovascular disease unaccustomed to high-intensity exercise, there could be a risk of acute myocardial infarction—also known as a heart attack. So a pre-exercise screening would be a good idea if you fit into that category. In the same vein, the study found that spinning on a daily basis, for all people, could be going too hard and lead to a decline in performance.
A similar 2019 study saw positive results for a test group of over 300 women and 66 men, concluding that spinning—along with a healthy diet—could “improve aerobic capacity, blood pressure, lipid profile, and body composition.”
For many spinning enthusiasts, the appeal of spinning can stem from the musical aspect of the classes. The high-energy atmosphere is fuelled by a carefully curated playlist of tracks to ramp up the collective drive of the class. Researchers have even found that music tempo can influence how much effort cyclists put in. Higher tempos resulted in higher exertion, speed, and heart rates while lower tempos did the inverse. How much the cyclist liked the music also affected their performance, partly because the music provided a pleasant distraction and reduced their perceived exhaustion. Spinning studios make their classes fun by design, because, well, if you’re going to willingly put yourself through the mild torture of high-intensity exercise, the soundtrack better be full of bangers.
So, to spin or not to spin? It all comes down to how much work you’re willing to put into your cardio, how tolerant you are of organized group exercise, and if you have any cardiovascular limits. Spinning can be an acquired taste; the first ride will be your worst, but with each session, it gets a bit better as your body adapts and improves. Exercise is not always about physical improvements either: studies have found that mental health can improve after a spinning session.
If you do plan on braving your first spinning class, here are our recommended spinning studios across Canada:
Vancouver: Spin Society has three locations across Vancouver: Downtown, North Vancouver, and Mount Pleasant. The studios, affectionately referred to as “playgrounds” by employees, are vigilant in creating a positive vibe during their classes by ensuring all students feel like they are part of the pack. Its signature class is a 50-minute rhythm-based intense “journey”, but the studios also offer 35-minute and 90-minute classes, as well as a “baby” version of the 50-minute ride with the volume turned low for parents with little ones.
Toronto: The ethos of “work hard, play hard” is at the heart of Toronto’s 6ix Cycle, which offers various themed classes, like the weekly TGIF spin class with complimentary Glory Hole doughnuts and Hale coffee after the intense ride. Classes have a “parental advisory” warning for the loud and proud explicit music, and are open to all fitness levels. The studio puts emphasis on teamwork and collective energy during classes, and advises spinners who may be “hungover AF” to sit the class out.
Montreal: Located in Montreal’s Monkland Village, ELMNT Studio offers spin, yoga, and bar classes. Spin classes can be combined with HIIT or yoga sessions for well-rounded experiences. For those who want to get serious about spinning, the studio offers athlete-level rides as well, which work on endurance through drills, technique, and mindset training. But for the spinner just looking for fun, they also offer a rhythm class with plenty of party tunes as well.
Edmonton: Downtown Edmonton’s Hive Fit Co offers yoga, rowing, and spinning classes all under one roof. Building a community (the “Hive Tribe”) is vital to the studio. Spin classes ride to the beat of bumping music and are offered in 45-minute or 1-hour sessions for those who want to push themselves just a little harder. Rest is just as important as exercise to the studio—a Rest + Revive class is offered to soothe those muscles.
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