Indoor Cycling HIIT Study Retracted – What Now?


A 2019 study looking into high intensity interval training (HIIT) seems to suggest that it is more effective at helping people lose weight than standard indoor cycling classes. The study proved incredibly popular among marketers looking to push cycling classes from some of the world’s biggest remote class producers. But now, the study has been retracted. So where do we go from here?

First and foremost, it is not unusual for studies of this nature to be retracted upon further scrutiny. Moreover, this particular study was retracted for a number of important reasons. The retraction by no means indicates that indoor cycling doesn’t help people lose weight. It only means that the information presented in the study may not have told the complete picture.

  1. Significant Body Fat Reductions

The study in question was conducted by researchers in Brazil and the UK. It was essentially a review of 786 previous studies looking into cycling as an exercise for losing weight. The researchers found that study participants engaging in HIIT demonstrated significant body fat reductions compared to their non-HIIT counterparts.

Researchers eventually concluded that HIIT “provided 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass” compared to moderate-intensity continuous training (MOD). This is to say that high intensity intervals offer more fat reducing capabilities than rides with a more consistent pace.

Such findings proved quite important to corporate indoor cycling concerns as they sought to pitch new classes with their best and brightest instructors. They emphasized HIIT classes with experienced instructors as the secret to losing body fat. HIIT became so popular that celebrities jumped on board. They only fueled the fire. Unfortunately, the fire has now gone out.

  1. Reasons for Retraction

To be clear, the study’s retraction did not come from its original researchers. Instead, editors of the British Medical Journal  (BMJ) retracted their publishing of the study due to four main concerns:

  • Accuracy, inclusion, and exclusion of some studies
  • Exercise intensity classifications
  • Accuracy of reported effects
  • Title and main conclusion veracity.

In essence, the BMJ was concerned that the study did not present the whole picture. BMJ editors didn’t say that HIIT wasn’t effective as a means of losing weight. They only asserted that the data featured in the study could not be relied on for its accuracy. So now what?

  1. HIIT Is Still Exercise

Instructors at Salt Lake City, Utah’s Mcycle studio say that HIIT is still a viable option for indoor cyclists who enjoy it. At the end of the day, it is still exercise. Any exercise, combined with proper nutrition, can aid in significant weight loss. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this case.

If it turns out that future studies show HIIT is no more effective at achieving weight loss than MOD, there may be a case to argue against pitching HIIT as the best way to exercise on an indoor bike. And for the time being, local cycling studios and corporate ventures should probably lay off the hype.

It is more important that people get regular exercise rather than obsessing over a certain type of spinning class. In the meantime, it might be worthwhile to look into the retracted study a bit more closely. Did the researchers knowingly produce a bad paper, or did they do their best and just fall short?

It turns out that HIIT may not be the be-all and end-all of losing weight via indoor cycling. Maybe standard MOD rides are just as good. One way or the other, indoor cycling is a great option for low impact exercise that offers a good cardio workout.