Fitness Fashion: Spinning into Rhabdomyolysis

Is this what fitness is all about? Or is it closer to fashion? How does it relate to health? Spinning businesses like Soul Cycle and Peloton are achieving cult status. Devoted followers immerse themselves in demanding sessions led by charismatic instructors. Some of those instructors might compete well with a marine drill sergeant. The advertising presents a sexy, successful image.

But in the American Journal of Medicine (AJM), three case reports highlight a rare complication of such intense exercise.


Rhabdo results when muscle begins to break down from trauma or a toxic substance. Then, as muscle fibers break down, they enter the bloodstream and can cause kidney failure along with tremendous pain. The problem can spiral out of control and become life threatening.

Although the AJM paper provides details for just three case reports, it notes 46 such cases appear in medical literature. Of those, 42 are linked to spinning. The authors conclude:

The high-intensity exercise associated with “spin class” comes with significant risks to newcomers.

This problem is hardly insurmountable. Spinning is great exercise. But starting with a punishing intensity is probably unwise. Or even risky.

So, we can’t help but wonder. The sexy advertising tells us that Robin, our instructor, “is not going to go easy on us.” What exactly does that promote?

Click here for the paper in AJM and here for more from the New York Times. For more on Peloton click here and click here for more on SoulCycle.

Peloton Advertising Image © Peloton Interactive, Inc.

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July 21, 2017

One Response to “Fitness Fashion: Spinning into Rhabdomyolysis”

  1. July 21, 2017 at 6:03 am, Angela Meadows said:

    Notable rise in cases from CrossFit also. Fitness as Religion.