March 30th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

Cycling my way into that new bikini

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical News intern

Just the other day I was looking through the Victoria’s Secret’s swimsuit section and I was reminded that summer is not far way. But luckily I have been taking advantage of fitness classes over the past few months, not only to feel better about my body image but also for my overall health and well being.

Among the treadmills, ellipticals and rowing machines, my favorite is the cycling class. I feel like Lance Armstrong racing to win the Tour de France except I’m competing against saddle bags, hypertension and diabetes risk.

The health benefits of group exercise classes, especially cycling, are numerous. Staying active minimizes the risk of coronary disease and ensures your blood pressure is under control. It helps to prevent the clutch of health problems that include strokes, diabetes and cancer. I may be young, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have the energy to carry out simple day-to-day activities. Studies show that cycling helps a great deal in building stamina.

But wait there’s more good news. Cycling is one of the most effective ways to burn those extra calories while getting rid of the tummy flab and thunder thighs. Dr. Arthur Frank, a weight-management physician from George Washington University Hospital, says not all activity is the same. In order for exercise to help you lose weight, you have to burn an awful lot of calories. On the average, a 45-minute cycling workout burns up to 600 calories. That’s a lot, but how many times a week should I be cycling in order to look nice in that new beautiful red bikini? The 2008 Health and Human Services guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, three times a week.

With those stats, I now think twice about hitting the snooze button and skipping my morning cycling class. I may not like to sacrifice sleeping in, but by not exercising, I know that I am sacrificing much more. So I’m up and out. Summer is just right around the corner. While my housemates are fast asleep I’m dripping sweat, and spinning my way to a healthy heart, mind, body and soul.

What are you doing to get in shape for the summer? We’d like to know.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.