If you frequent the gym, or show up there once a week after a particularly bad guilt trip, you may have seen advertisements for their local spin class.

What is a spin class, you might ask? First, you need to know that it’s different than cycling. Sometimes the terms get used interchangeably, but there actually is a difference.

Both utilize bikes and an instructor. They’re usually (almost always) indoors. But there are minute differences, such as the type of bike used and how the instructor formats the class.

A stationary bike used for spin classes is designed more like a road bike. If you don’t know what a road bike is, they’re built for traveling at high speeds on paved surfaces. Forget about leisure riding – road bikes have narrow wheels, belt handlebars for better grip, and various gears.

When it comes to spin classes both beginners and advanced students are welcome. All of the possible adjustments on the bikes make it easy for anyone at any level to jump into a class. Unlike cycling stationary bikes, spin bikes use a system of gears that keep the wheel spinning if the rider stops pedaling. We’ll get into why this is important later on. But to keep it simple for now, spin exercises utilize inertia to isolate muscle groups and work on specific areas.

Different gyms and classes use different brands of spin bikes and these vary even more when you take into consideration how an individual prefers to set themselves up on one. If you walk into a class you’re unfamiliar with and sit on a bike you’ve never used before, this is very noticeable! You’ll find yourself wanting to adjust to where you’re comfortable on the bike.

If you’ve ridden bikes in the past you’ll also recognize that spin bikes use transmission chains (unlike cycling bikes), which replicates the forces and resistance of an actual bike.

So how do spin classes benefit your body?

As we mentioned earlier, the design of the bikes allows for the wheel to continue moving if you stop pedaling. This causes your tendons to react to the inertia by contracting and working more intensely.

When sitting upright on a bike and pedaling (called “climbing) you’re working more muscle groups and the instructor can tailor each class to include exercises while pedaling that isolate muscle groups as well.

A usual class running 40 minutes can burn 500 or more calories. Targeted areas include calves, hamstrings, and thighs – all of which will get noticeably firmer – as well as your abs, which are worked out automatically by having to balance your upper body. 

Spinning is also great for cardiovascular health, as it’ll keep your pulse up. If you’re looking for a cardio workout alternative to running, which can be pretty rough on your joints, we suggest you give spin classes a try. They’re great for the heart without doing damage to the joints.

Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of a spin class is that it’s an indoor activity. While it’s great to great outside – and actually important for your mental health – the idea of being able to get a great workout without having to worry about cars, uncontrollable landscapes, distractions, etc is incredibly appealing. It’s also a group activity, and while that can be intimidating at first, it creates a great environment for support and morale while being coached by a professional.

Of course there are some cons to keep in mind when deciding whether or not this could be a good addition to your workout.

Check out your local gyms to see what they offer for classes, whether the cost is extra or included, and if they’ll give you a free pass to try it before you buy it.