Biking is more than just a great way to burn calories—it’s one of the greenest methods of transportation possible. In early 2010, the New York Times reported that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood urged state transportation agencies to provide more access for bikers on the nation’s roadways and bridges. If the agencies follow orders, you may soon see more bike paths and trails in your city.
You’ve got many choices when it comes to cycling. In addition to the standard road bike or stationary bike at the gym, you can ride a mountain bike, BMX bike, recumbent bike or tandem bike. Mountain bikes generally have built-in shocks and more cushioning for bumps and jumps, while BMX bikes have smaller frames, more convenient for jumps and tricks. Recumbent bikes offer a more relaxed position and less wind resistance than standard road bikes, while tandem bikes give you the opportunity to make cycling a team sport instead of a solitary pursuit.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, your starting weight and your exercise intensity will determine how many calories you burn on a stationary bike. Its calculations involved three hypothetical subjects weighing 125 pounds, 155 pounds and 185 pounds. In one hour of moderate activity, Harvard calculated that these subjects would burn 420 calories, 520 calories and 622 calories, respectively. If they boosted their intensity level to “vigorous,” the same subjects would burn 630 calories, 782 calories and 932 calories, respectively.
The Harvard Heart Letter also took its estimates out on the street, so to speak. Using the same three hypothetical test subjects, bicycling at a leisurely 12 to 13.9 miles per hour burned 480 calories, 596 calories and 710 calories per hour, respectively. Increasing the pace to the range of 16 to 19 miles per hour rated a burn of 720 calories, 892 calories and 1,066 calories, respectively.
Burn More Calories
No matter which type of bike you ride, you can do things to increase your calorie burn. In the gym, increase the resistance on your bike pedals. On the street, choose routes that take you uphill. Ride a single-speed bike or ignore the gears you’d normally use to make pedaling easier. If you’re on flat ground, do timed rides and push yourself to pedal faster, increasing your goals as you build strength and stamina.
Other Health Benefits
When you ride your bike, you’re doing more than simply burning calories. According to the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, you work most major muscle groups when you cycle, from your legs to your abs to your shoulders. Cycling can help relieve back pain, they note, as the pedaling motion works to strengthen your lower back and vertebrae, reducing the likelihood of slipped discs and other back problems. It’s also ideal for people with weak knees or hips who have trouble supporting their full weight. The Foundation notes that your bike bears 70 percent of your weight, making cycling practical for those who can’t jog or walk easily.