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What is a Cycle Ergometer?

By Marisa O'Connor
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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A cycle ergometer is a stationary bicycle attached to a machine that measures a person's work performance. The cycle is often used to test cardiovascular and respiratory health for medical or physical training reasons. This type of ergometer test is best used on people who are accustomed to bicycling and may not be as accurate for runners or those who typically perform other types of exercise.

A cycle ergometer is set apart from other exercise bicycles, as the name suggests, by the ergometer qualifier. An ergometer is an instrument, usually attached to an exercise machine, that measures the amount of work done by human muscles. The word ergometer is derived from the Greek words ergon, which means work, and metron, which means measure. When combined, this word literally translates to work measurer.

Older models of the cycle were very bulky, made up of a regular stationary bike attached to a large machine with all kinds of measuring equipment. Some models included a mouthpiece that the person would need to breathe into in order to get accurate readings of how much work that person was doing. Modern bicycle ergometers are much sleeker and very similar in appearance to a normal stationary bike, with the bulk of the measuring equipment hidden from sight.

The primary purpose of the cycle ergometer is to perform and monitor fitness tests, which may be administered at the recommendation of a physician or as a part of a person's personal training routine. A typical bicycle ergometer test involves riding at a constant speed of about 50 rotations per minute for a set amount of time. During the test, resistance is added to the bike in small increments. Heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are monitored throughout the test, which demonstrate where more training is needed as well as the overall cardio-respiratory fitness of the individual.

The cycle ergometer tests have some advantage over other types of ergometer tests. The cycle equipment is typically less expensive and more portable than other exercise equipment. The bicycle also doesn't require much upper body movement, which makes it easier to measure heart rate and blood pressure while exercising. This type of machine is also particularly useful in monitoring fitness for people who cycle regularly, as it is the same type of exercise.

There are also a few disadvantages to take into account when considering a cycle ergometer when compared to other types of ergometer exercise machines. If the person being tested does not regularly bicycle, the measurement of overall fitness may not be accurate because the individual is not accustomed to using muscles in that particular way. The longer muscle contractions involved in cycling may reflect slightly higher than normal blood pressure results, while a treadmill ergometer test is likely to produce more accurate results.

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