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Miss USA says affordable health care is a 'privilege,' not a right

The reign of the newly crowned Miss USA is off to a rocky start.

Even before Kara McCullough, Miss District of Columbia, was announced the winner, social media was in a frenzy over her responses during the Q&A segment of the broadcast.

McCullough, a 25-year-old physical scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was asked whether affordable health care for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege.

>> Photos: Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough wins Miss USA 2017

“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege,” she said. “As a government employee, I am granted health care, and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you have to have jobs.”

McCullough also set fingers a-tweeting when she said she did not consider herself a feminist.

McCullough, a woman of color, said she was worried about how audiences would view her natural hair in a sea of straight and teased pageant locks.

>> Read more trending news

“When I chose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid. I didn’t know how people were going to accept it, if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all, but I felt like a Grecian goddess on stage!” she told Refinery 29.

But it was her viewpoints that ended up as the topic of debate rather than her hairstyle:

McCullough is a 2013 graduate of South Carolina State University, a historically black college in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

She follows the reign of Deshauna Barber, the former Miss USA who also hailed from D.C.

The organization, once owned by President Donald Trump, was sold in 2015 to talent agency and entertainment company WME/IMG.

Police officer donating kidney to sick boy she just met

A police officer is taking her oath to a whole new level, protecting and serving one of the young members of the community by donating her kidney.

>> Watch the news report here

Officer Lindsey Bittorf of the Milton, Wisconsin, Police Department saw a plea on Facebook in December by Kristi Goll, who was desperate to find a kidney donor for her 8-year-old son, Jackson.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Jackson was born with posterior urethral valves, family members told WISN.

Bittorf was tested and learned that she is a match for Jackson. Doctors were shocked to find such a strong match in someone who wasn’t a blood relative.

>> Read more trending news

Bittorf surprised the family with the good news at their home. The touching moment was captured on video.

“I took an oath to serve and protect our community,” Bittorf told Jackson, “and now my kidney’s going to serve and protect you.”

Read more here.

Say cheese! Health risks from dairy, even full-fat, debunked in study

It’s time to break out some cheese and wine to celebrate a new study that debunks long-held rumors about dairy products.

The study, published in the “European Journal of Epidemiology,” states that consuming dairy products, including full-fat versions, “does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” The Guardian reported

>> Read more trending news

It was believed that dairy products had been harmful because of their high amount of saturated fats, The Guardian reported. 

However, an international team of experts argues the opposite and said those who cut dairy from their diet are doing more damage, according to The Guardian.

People, especially young women, who don’t drink enough milk are at risk of damaging their bone development and getting conditions such as osteoporosis, or “brittle bones,” according to The Guardian. 

Read more at The Guardian

Editor’s note: The research cited in this report was part-funded by three pro-dairy groups -- Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia -- but the groups had no influence over the research, according to The Guardian.

Does Roundup kill more than just weeds? Lawsuits claim it also causes cancer

You'll find it in garages, garden sheds and farms across the country.

WSB-TV consumer investigator Jim Strickland looked into claims that the popular weed killer Roundup causes a rare form of cancer.

Thousands of farmers and consumers have filed lawsuits against its maker, Monsanto.

As some countries continue to evaluate it, several have banned it.

Roundup makes its biggest impact on the farm.

>> Read more trending news

According to a recent study, giant sprayers, like the ones Floyd County, Georgia, farmer Nick McMichen uses, have applied 370,000 tons of the active ingredient, glyphosate, in the U.S., most of it in the past 10 years.

Along with McMichen’s Alabama and Georgia farms, it coats the Midwest and a swath of Georgia's farm belt.

McMichen is using it on a North Georgia cotton field.

“I handle it myself. I spray it in this sprayer on a regular basis,” McMichen said.

He said it’s helped him to reduce the use of multiple chemicals to combat weeds. He calls it revolutionary for farming.

The faces behind the lawsuits

In Swainsboro, farmer Bill Hammock used it on his 2,000 acres in south Georgia. 

“He would come home and it would be all over his clothes,” his wife, Lisa Hammock, told Jim Strickland.

She is suing Monsanto, blaming the chemical for the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that killed Hammock in 2008. 

“There was clots all in his nose and everything. He sucked one of those clots down into his lungs and he choked to death and I had to watch him choke to death,” Hammock said.

It's not just farmers. 

“I've been using it since the very early '80s,” John Jenniges, of Smyrna, told Strickland. 

Jenniges still has last the bottle he used around his suburban yard. 

The 74-year-old is awaiting his first chemo after being diagnosed last year with mantle cell lymphoma. He's suing Monsanto, too.

“People have died from it. People will continue to die from it. I'll die from it,” Jenniges said.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, determined glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

[READ: IARC report 1 IARC report 2]

The European Union will decide later in 2017 whether to outlaw its use.

“It's safe as these things come, to humans and to the environment,” UGA crop and weed science professor William Vencill told Strickland.

Vencill says that branding glyphosate as cancer-causing is misleading. He says exposure levels, even on the farm, are relatively low.

“If there was a serious, you know, systemic toxicological issue, it would have exploded by now,” Vencill said.

Monsanto accused of "ghost-writing" safety studies

What has exploded is evidence unsealed in court documents that Monsanto has "ghost-written" scientific studies that proclaim Roundup is safe.

By email, one top-level exec writes about "...us doing the writing ... That is how we handled William, Kroes and Monro, 2000."

[READ: Internal email from Monsanto executive]

That research paper eventually concluded: “Roundup herbicide does not pose a health risk to humans.”

A 30-year EPA toxicologist wrote in 2014: “It is essentially certain glyphosate causes cancer.”

[READ: Letter from EPA toxicologist alleging collusion between Monsanto, EPA evaluators]

Two months ago, the EPA concluded it did not.

“Something becomes enormously profitable and soon nothing can get in its way,” Tim Litzenburg told Strickland.

Litzenburg represents more than a dozen Georgians suing Monsanto.

“If they don't tell you what the risks are and they don't tell you what precautions you're gonna have to take, then it's not just misleading, it's deadly. It’s dangerous,” Litzenberg said.

The push for changes

Hammock says a warning label would have made a difference.

“We just didn't know the dangers of it,” Hammock said.

She feels it’s too important to farmers to be taken off the market.

Nick McMichen said a world without Roundup would be hungry.

“I feel like this is an unfair attack on an herbicide that is helping to feed the world,” McMichen said.

Monsanto had agreed to an on-camera interview. A month after Strickland’s request, the company still had not made anyone available.

In a statement, Monsanto officials admitted contributing to scientific papers on Roundup, but denied ghostwriting them.

Trial dates on the lawsuits have not been set.

WATCH: Obama talks health care fight in Profile in Courage Award speech

While accepting the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at Boston's JFK presidential library Sunday, former President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to act courageously in the face of political opposition in the health care debate.

>> Watch the full speech here

According to The Associated Press, Obama praised lawmakers who voted for his Affordable Care Act while he was president – even if it meant they would lose re-election.

>> PHOTOS: Profiles in Courage Award winners

"They had a chance to insure millions," Obama said. "The same vote would likely cost them their new seats and perhaps end their political careers. And these men and women did the right thing, the hard thing, and theirs was a profile in courage."

>> Watch the news report here

He added, "It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions ... such courage is still possible, that today’s members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions."

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and son Jack Schlossberg presented Obama with the award “for his enduring commitment to democratic ideals and elevating the standard of political courage in a new century," the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said in a statement last week.

>> Read more trending news

Other recipients of the award include former presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, in addition to U.S. Sen. John McCain, former Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko and former U.S. Rep. Carl Elliott Sr.

The award has been given out every year since 1989.

Read more here.

>> Watch more from the ceremony here

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

8 Apps to Help You Get a Solid 8 Hours of Sleep

Sleep is a funny thing. Staying up past your bedtime as a kid was a treat. Sleep didn’t seem so elusive back then. But now with longer workdays, a serious caffeine habit, and an endless stream of binge-worthy shows, it’s a miracle if you get six hours of shut-eye per night.

But you can rest easy (or at least more easily) if you’ve got the right app. We know, we know—it’s ironic to suggest the solution for better sleep can be found on your smartphone. After all, phones emit blue light that messes with your circadian rhythm and keeps you up. Plus, you’re only a few taps away from the addictive scroll of every social app, which is one of the easiest ways to lose track of time. 

Luckily, you can avoid the blue light issue—and stop tricking your brain into thinking it’s still light out—by enabling Night Shift (iOS) or downloading Twilight (Android). Then go ahead and check out these eight apps:

1. White Noise Tune out all of the background noise—from your clunky pipes to your loud next-door neighbor—with this app. Don’t let the name deceive you. You can opt for traditional white noise or choose from a full catalog of ambient sounds, including “extreme rain pouring” and “cat purring.”  (Free; iOS and Android) 2. Sleep Pillow This app lets you be your own sleep DJ. Choose from more than 70 pre-recorded ambient sounds or mix them up on your own. You’ll never get bored, considering there are more than 300,000 possible combinations. The app also includes a sleep timer and alarm clock.  (Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android) 3. Sleep Cycle Do you wake up feeling groggy even after getting a solid eight hours of sleep? That’s probably because your alarm jolted you awake in the middle of deep sleep. This app is designed to wake you up at the lightest point in your sleep cycle—hence the name. That means the app may wake you up 15 or 20 minutes before your typical alarm, but you’ll feel refreshed. Sleep Cycle comes with a bunch of other cool bells and whistles, including sleep analysis and snore detection.  (Free with optional in-app purchases: iOS and Android) 4. Centered Studies have found that meditation and exercise can help with sleep issues, and that’s exactly what Centered does. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. Black DS, O'Reilly GA, Olmstead R. JAMA internal medicine, 2015, Jun.;175(4):2168-6114. The app encourages users to meditate and increase their level of activity, measured in the number of steps they take every day. You can choose from seven mindfulness practices, including self-guided meditation, a mindful walk, and body-awareness meditation.  (Free; iOS) 5. Headspace For years meditation has been sold to us as some mystical type of practice. But Headspace is here to prove anyone can do it. The app starts off with a 10-day intro to meditation and then lets users choose their own adventure. The guided meditations help slow down the racing thoughts in your head—a necessary skill when you try to fall asleep but can’t stop thinking about all the things on your to-do list.  (Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android) 6. Aura If you think you’re too busy to meditate, we’ve got news for you: All you need is three minutes. Aura specializes in guided micro-meditations. Start by telling the app how you’re feeling (anxious? stressed? great?), and get a meditation tailored to your needs. The app also features a gratitude journal, which studies have shown can help people fall asleep faster. (Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android) 7. Sleep Genius Fall asleep using the same ambient noises NASA sends to astronauts to help them get shut-eye in space. The scientifically composed audio is designed to relax your breathing, lower your heart rate, and prepare your brain for sleep. It’s basically like the app version of getting rocked to sleep as a baby.  ($4.99; iOS and Android) 8. Deep Sleep With Andrew Johnson How many times did you fall asleep in the middle of a lecture when your teacher was droning on and on? This app does the same thing, thanks to Andrew Johnson’s gentle, melodic voice. You can’t help but feel relaxed while listening to his guided meditations—we barely make it to the 10-minute mark before drifting off to sleep.  ($2.99; iOS and Android)

 

I Used to Think Yoga Was a Joke Until This One Moment

“Take a deep breath in... and exhale it out. Begin utilizing your ujjayi breath…”  

"Uh, ujjayi what?"  I was in my very first yoga class and couldn't help but think: This is ridiculous. Did this yoga instructor just randomly make up a fancy-sounding word to describe the simple concept of breathing? *eye roll* Not only was I sweating profusely, suddenly swimming in a puddle of perspiration on my mat, but I also felt like I was stuck in an eleventh-grade foreign language class. Still trying to wrap my head around ujjayi-this and trikonasana-that, I came to the defeated conclusion that this was not my jam. I just had to make it through this one class without drowning in my own bodily fluids and pretend to understand the gibberish meant to guide the wacky practice.  

I didn't get into yoga because I was “broken” or going through a breakup or even seeking spiritual growth. I simply wanted a supplement to my already-involved training regimen. I perceived yoga to be physically challenging yet a more gentle workout for rest days... and that's about it. 

Photo: Parinaz Samimi I spent the first two years focusing on my physical practice. I didn’t have any interest in “feeling” or being compassionate, loving, and kind to myself. My main objective was to get a recovery workout in on the days I didn’t have functional strength training, and to keep my body supple. Every time an instructor would preach about vulnerability and the idea that “you can only love others as much as you love yourself,” I would cringe. Rather than embrace all of the tools that would contribute to my growth and emotional freedom, I resisted them and became increasingly frustrated with what I considered to be absolute bulls#*t. TBH, I just couldn’t comprehend why every single instructor felt the need to create an emotional upheaval when I was just there to get in a good workout.

Despite my journey not following the common trend of turning to yoga post breakup, two years into my practice, I found myself going through the worst breakup of my life: my divorce. All of a sudden, the emotional wall I built came crumbling down. I felt like everything the instructor was saying resonated with what I was experiencing in my personal life. The emotions came on full force, and my mat was soaked with a mixture of sweat and tears after every practice. I felt a loss of control and power I didn't experience in my other workouts, as I was forced to deal with the hurt, sadness, anger, and regret. My formerly-jaded self might have scoffed, but this new, vulnerable version of me felt a shift.  The exact moment it happened was in half-pigeon after a grueling practice. I heard the instructor say, “Your access to power is through your breath. Follow it, feel it, hear it, be with it.” As much as I look forward to the hip-opening poses, those are also the ones that are most sensational and regarded as the area in our body where we hold on to our emotions. With the discomfort intensifying, I decided to take the advice that changed everything for me: I started to breathe. I counted my breath. I visualized my breath. I listened to my breath. I just breathed.

It wasn’t that my breath magically made everything better—not even close—but what it did do was make the discomfort manageable.

It wasn’t that my breath magically made everything better—not even close—but what it did do was make the discomfort manageable. It allowed me to stay with the sensations, recognizing that I was in full control of how I chose to respond. In that moment, my breath—this simple, basic thing that we all have access to—became my most useful and powerful tool. Breathing reminded me that all emotions, good and bad, are temporary.

Photo: Parinaz Samimi Learning to breathe through discomfort, be it physical or emotional, allowed me to create space for healing and vulnerability. It made me responsive rather than reactive, and it gave me the ability to recognize that I always have a choice. As the saying goes, the only way out is through. Through yoga, I realized I can either choose to avoid uncomfortable sensation and suffer, or I can breathe my way through it, trusting that it will pass in due time.

When I think back to that very first yoga class, I was not only completely confused by ujjayi breathing, but I was also annoyed by the loud, obnoxious sound. It's kind of funny now that what I once resisted is now my sacred tool of survival. It grounds me, soothes me, nurtures me, and allows me to create space to feel and to let go. It's helped me find myself and is the most powerful component of my yoga practice. It reminds me not to be so quick to judge new experiences, new people, even myself. It reminds me that there is no challenge or difficulty that you cannot overcome—one breath at a time.   Parinaz Samimi has since graduated from student status and is now a certified yoga instructor in Salt Lake City. Follow her journey on Instagram

19 One-Pan Recipes That Cut Your Meal-Prep Time in Half

Putting together a week’s worth of food in advance saves time and is pretty much the responsible thing to do. But it can also make for a serious mess in the kitchen. When you end up with cluttered counters and a sink overflowing with pots and pans, meal prep can start to feel… well, kind of miserable.   

Keep things organized, efficient, and simple with dishes that use minimal equipment but don't skimp on flavor or nutrition. These 19 make-ahead recipes require just one pot or pan, saving you from a ton of cleanup and a meal-prep meltdown.

1. Sheet Pan Sriracha Ranch Chicken Photo: The Girl on Bloor You don’t need to buy overly fancy or expensive ingredients to keep your weekly meals interesting. It’s not a conventional combo, but ranch seasoning + a drizzle of Sriracha can do wonders to take plain chicken and veggies to new levels of tasty. 2. One-Pan Healthy Italian Sausage and Veggies Photo: Chelsea's Messy Apron With potatoes, lots of veggies, and the sausage of your choosing in one sheet pan, all the colors in this meal means that it’s nutritionally balanced. Seasonings like dried basil, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes make sure it tastes as good as it looks.  3. Shrimp Vegetable Skillet Photo: Primavera Kitchen Get four meals from just 30 minutes of work with this simple shrimp skillet. We guarantee that’s less time, effort, and money than it would take for you to step away from your desk to buy lunch from Monday to Thursday.  4. One-Pan Baked Teriyaki Salmon and Vegetables Photo: Le Creme De La Crumb Lower in refined sugar than your average bottled teriyaki, this homemade sauce is just sweet enough without going overboard. Slather it onto salmon and veggies, then bake for a more hands-off version of a stir-fry. The rice does require a second pan, but it’s an optional component, so don’t sweat it.  5. Garlic Herb Chicken and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Meal Prep Photo: Cafe Delites This recipe knows that garlic in any form elevates a dish. Here, four cloves get tossed with sweet potatoes, vegetables, and chicken. A generous glug of olive oil and 40 minutes in the oven later, you have a fantastic-smelling meal ready to be stored in Tupperware for the week. 6. Sriracha Cauliflower Fried Rice Photo: Kirbie's Cravings Two advantages of cauliflower rice over the regular kind: It’s not as heavy, and it takes much less time to prepare. Pair it with a few veggies, a protein, and a hefty squirt of Sriracha for a meal you won’t get bored of during the week. 7. One-Pot Thai Shrimp and Quinoa Photo: Sweet Phi This recipe has you cooking your quinoa, veggies, and protein all in a single pan. It’s not hard; it's a matter of getting the timing right to the enjoy coconuty, fragrant results.  8. Ground Beef Zucchini Sweet Potato Skillet Photo: Primavera Kitchen Savory beef and sweet potatoes make a great pair in this hearty skillet dish, while lots of extra veggies add fiber and even more volume. If you have cooked rice on hand, pack it into your meal-prep containers along with this mixture. If not, no worries—this is delicious on its own.   9. Meal-Prep Scrambled Tofu Breakfast Tacos Photo: Ambitious Kitchen Seeing as they're stuffed with spiced tofu, tomatoes, and avocado, it’s a good thing you get two of these delicious tacos in one serving. They may have the word “breakfast” in their name, but once they’re prepped and ready to go, they can really be enjoyed for any meal. 10. Meal-Prep Vegetarian Quinoa Burrito Bowls Photo: Simply Quinoa A copycat Chipotle meal every day of the week that’s healthier and cheaper that the original? We’re in. Quinoa takes the place of the rice to add some extra protein to the dish, while all the cilantro-lime flavor makes the meal taste just like the restaurant version.    11. Sweet Chili Tofu Salad Photo: Flavor RD The only “cooking” involved in these meals is the baking of the tofu, which is coated in an addictive, sweet chili sauce before it goes in the oven. The other components of the salads can be assembled right in the containers you’ll save them in. Easy! 12. Greek Grilled Chicken and Hummus Wrap Photo: Weekend Collective Heat up a grill once, and get four days’ worth of chicken for these hearty wraps. A simple vinaigrette keeps the protein juicy, while hummus and feta add even more flavor, and fresh veggies give it a satisfying crunch.  13. Meal-Prep Turkey Taco Black Bean Salads Photo: Project Meal Plan In these easy bowls, a simple turkey, black bean, and salsa mixture gives you a great base to build on with your favorite toppings. A Greek yogurt and salsa dressing gives it the creaminess of ranch dressing without the sugar or preservatives.  14. Middle Eastern 3-Bean Salad Photo: Eat Spin Run Repeat Instead of a leafy salad, meal-prep a more satisfying fiber- and protein-packed version. This recipe uses mild beans but gives them an exotic flavor upgrade with fresh mint, parsley, and pine nuts. 15. Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burritos Photo: Pinch of Yum If meat is a must-have in your burrito, this recipe has you covered. Turkey keeps the protein lean, while a delicious Greek yogurt and cheese mixture helps bind the veggies together. 16. Thai Coconut Healthy Homemade Instant Noodles Photo: Sweet Peas and Saffron All you gotta do here is precook the noodles before layering them into jars along with coconut milk, curry paste, and veggies. Pour hot water on top when you’re ready to eat. It’s the quickest way ever to get your Thai food fix! 17. Easy Chicken Bowls Photo: Ev's Eats Disclaimer: You do need already-cooked couscous (or another grain you like) on hand for this recipe to come together in a single pan, but it’s totally worth it. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can focus on the really good part. With juicy chicken, cumin-spiced peppers, salsa, beans, and just enough shredded cheddar, this make-ahead meal doesn’t skimp on ingredients, but throwing them together couldn’t be easier.  18. Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili Photo: Fit BFF's Chili is the quintessential one-pot meal. And it's always filling, thanks to the beans. But this one adds even more fiber with sweet potatoes and quinoa. Each of your meal-prep servings will average out to about 14 grams of fiber each. 19. Cilantro Lime Chicken Burgers Photo: Freshly Cut Kitchen When you really, really want a burger, nothing else will do. Next time that craving strikes, be ready with these freezer-friendly chicken patties. They can be prepped and saved for up to a few weeks so that all you have to do is pop a few on the grill when you’re ready to eat.

 

The Only Margarita Recipe You Need to Keep the Tequila Flowing

Some might call these "skinny margaritas," but we call them happy ones. We've drank enough to know that they don't make us "skinny," but man, do they make us smile. With fresh squeezed orange juice, a few dashes of lime juice and tequila, and agave to sweeten things up, this healthy(ish) margarita recipe is so refreshing that sometimes we forget we're not just drinking water.

Don't be afraid to mix it up by muddling sliced jalapeños or strawberries (really, any kind of fruit will do) into your glass. Those small additions change it up enough so you can drink margaritas all year summer long.

The Best Healthyish Margarita Recipe

2 ounces tequila 1 ounce lime juice 2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice 2 teaspoons agave Ice cubes Orange slice or lime wedge, for garnish Sea salt, for the rim

1. In a small bowl, squeeze half an orange (ideally, you'd use the other half for the actual margarita).  2. Dip the rim of your glass into the juice until it's fully coated. 3. On a small plate, sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt, then coat the rim of the glass with as much salt as you prefer.  4. Add tequila, lime juice, orange juice, agave, and ice into a shaker and mix until combined.  5. Pour into the glass then add in ice until it's full.  6. Garnish with an orange slice (or lime wedge).When you don't feel like measuring it out, it goes something like this...

  • 1 1/2 shots of tequila (a.k.a. a generous splash)
  • Squeeze half of a lime
  • Squeeze half of a large orange
  • Add a squirt of agave
  • Mix it all together in a cup
  • Add ice
  • Drink

Note: If you'd like, add a splash or two of club soda for a bubblier cocktail.

Make It Spicy

Rim: Sea Salt + Chili PowderGarnish: JalapeñoIn the marg: Muddle 5 slices of jalapeño before adding the liquid to the glass.

Make It Sweet

Rim: Coconut SugarGarnish: StrawberryIn the marg: Muddle 3 sliced strawberries before adding the liquid to the glass.

Is Riding a Spin Bike the Same As Riding a Bike Outdoors?

If you're into indoor cycling, then you know that Spinning along to your favorite feel-good music can be addictive. Hell, it might even inspire you to bust out of that dark room and take your pedaling power out onto the road. Yes! I mean, if you can crush 20 miles in a 45-minute class, surely you can take on a road ride or your first sprint triathlon, right? Well... kind of. Before you hit the road, there are a few things you should know.  Photo: Soulcycle

The Need-to-Know 

From the Spin side of the story, there are some major benefits that you can’t get from riding outside: an ultra-fast, stress-free workout, for one. If you're short on time and gear, indoor cycling is an easy go-to, and you'll never have to worry about changing a flat tire. It's also pretty liberating to shut your eyes (a big no-no on a bicycle!), zone out, and let your legs do the work. "Spinning is the closest I can get to meditating,” says Emily Southworth, lead instructor at Recycle Studio in Boston.

While most stationary bikes have a weighted flywheel on the front (usually around 40 pounds) to mimic what you'd feel outdoors, this weight builds momentum as you spin, making it a little easier than pushing your own body weight on a flat road or up a hill. 

You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ If you’re bike-curious and thinking about swapping a Spin class for a road ride, don’t be surprised if it feels a little funny at first. "A Spin bike is locked in a vertical plane, so by nature, there isn’t a lot of side-to-side movement," says Peter Glassford, a cycling coach for Smart Athlete. "If you watch someone standing while pedaling outside, you’ll see the bike move from side to side under them, and that requires more balance and coordination, plus more muscle activation for stability." Engaging more muscles means getting more of a total-body workout than on an indoor bike. Riding outside requires some basic skills like riding in a straight line and navigating obstacles, and you'll also need some gear: A bike and helmet are essential. As a plus, if you get tired on a bike, you can coast (or cruise forward without pedaling) and take a breather while still gaining ground.  While there are some obvious differences, both Spinning and outdoor cycling boast a lot of the same benefits. Both Are Killer Workouts

If you’re looking for a quick and dirty workout, there are few that hit the same caloric burn rate as a sweaty spin class: 400 to 600 per hour on average. Spinning has boomed in popularity for this exact reason—it's nearly impossible to finish a class without being soaked in sweat. “It’s a very intense workout,” Southworth says.  

Riding outdoors, you could burn as few as 100 calories per hour if you’re just cruising at a snail’s pace, or more than 600 if you’re really throwing down, but the choice is yours. Unlike Spin, where an instructor is egging you on and telling you when to go hard and how much resistance to add, riding outside means you pick your own pace, and the road determines your resistance: You can’t just dial the knob back when you’re grinding up a hill in your lowest gear. Plus, your whole body will be working, from your core to maintain balance, to your glutes when you climb, to your upper body when you're out of the saddle.  

Both Are Ultra Efficient

Spin class is usually a 45- to 60-minute long sufferfest guaranteed to burn calories, and it ticks the “workout” box off your to-do list for the day. There’s usually a place to shower afterward, and it’s weather-independent, so even a blizzard won’t keep you off the bike.  

But outdoor cycling can be just as efficient in a different way: You can swap your drive to work or to the store for cycling and burn calories while commuting or running errands. If you've got an insane schedule (who doesn't?), it may be more realistic and convenient to get in your daily exercise through human-powered transportation rather than trying to jam gym time into your calendar. Plus commuting to work by bike has been shown to increase happiness and productivity (so you’ll be more efficient all day long, not just while training), and it's more convenient than ever with bike share programs popping up all over the U.S.

Both Train Your Brain and Your Body You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ

Can't quite get into meditating? Try a moving meditation instead. “You can really clear your head in a class,” Southworth says. “You’re working your ass off, but you can zone out and decompress." Many studios (inspired by the OG SoulCycle) now focus on inspirational music and mood-setting candlelight to help riders get in the zone. You'll challenge your brain by reacting to the instructors cues for different positions, rotations per minute (RPM or speed), and resistance.  Although Spin is a great way to zone out, you're not getting any fresh air in nature or challenging your brain with new stimulation. "The motivation, the tunes, the community, it’s all great; but your brain and vision aren’t stimulated the way they are outside where you have to engage in a variable environment," Glassford says. "That variety is good for your brain and body."

There are also dozens of studies championing the best part of riding a real bike: being out in nature. That means no screens, no loud music, no distractions—just fresh air and sunshine. Spending time outside has been linked to decreased symptoms of depression, greater resiliency against stress, and more happiness and contentment in general. So if most of your day, including your workout, is spent indoors, it might be time to shift to some outdoor adventuring.  Both Communities Are Strong As Hell

Spin class is a great activity for your crew, since you can have all different ability levels pedaling together, and no one gets dropped. Even if you didn’t know the person on the bike next to you, you feel bonded together by the effort of the tribe. And if you regularly hit the same class, you might end up developing friendships at the smoothie bar post workout.  

Outside, it's no different. Cycling is as much of a group sport as it is an individual sport, which is why you often see bike gangs riding together in a pack (or a Peloton in a pro race). When tackling long distances, you can ride farther and longer with more people by drafting (or breaking the wind resistance) off one another to preserve energy. There are few quicker ways to bond with some new friends than by tackling a long ride, hard climb, or epic adventure together—and then cheersing with some beers afterward.  Not sure where to start? There are tons of cycling clubs always looking for more people to join in on the fun. If you’re new to riding outside and nervous about riding alone, just head to your local bike shop and ask about beginner groups or women’s rides. Most likely, you’ll find one in your area and make some new friends in the process.  

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, both indoor and outdoor cycling are equally awesome and offer a lot of similar benefits. But are they the same in terms of circumstance, workout, and payoff? In a nutshell, no. To put it plainly, riding 20 miles on a Spin bike is not the same as riding 20 miles on the road.

Regardless, figure out which one works best for you and your lifestyle. The answer can be both! Spinning is often a gateway drug to outdoor cycling, so although it may seem daunting at first, keep an open mind to spinning your legs outside. No matter which you choose, crushing a cycling workout of any kind is sure to make you feel like a total badass on a bike. 

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