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Is Indoor Cycling Better Than Running?

author image Lisa Sefcik
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.
Is Indoor Cycling Better Than Running?
Indoor cycling classes make group exercise challenging and fun. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

When you're fighting fat, high-intensity exercise gives you more calories burned per minute, making more efficient use of your time. Indoor cycling is often offered through group classes. This fast-paced exercise provides an extra boost of motivation from your instructor and peers, and this might be the incentive you need to choose it over running solo. However, both indoor group cycling and running are extremely vigorous activities. If you've been sedentary for a long time, ease into these exercises slowly.

Perceived Exertion

Indoor group cycling is one of the most intense forms of exercise you can choose. According to the American Council on Exercise, it rates in the high teens on the Borg's Rating of Perceived Exertion, which assesses exercise intensity on a scale of 6 to 20. Group indoor cycling involves more than just pedaling. Your instructor leads you through various cycling tours that simulate steep hills, declines and flat terrain. ACE indicates the average calories burned during indoor cycling range between 7-1/2 to 19 calories per minute.

Calorie Burn

Indoor group cycling might not be any better than running, but you might prefer it. Both of these exercises are classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine as vigorous intensity activities that burn more than seven calories per minute. Workouts at lower intensities, such as walking or talking a leisurely bike ride, might burn more calories than fat, but high-intensity exercise burns more calories overall. The number of calories you burn indoor cycling or running depends on your weight, as well as the amount of energy you exert. A 150-pound person burns 181 calories cycling at a rate of 5-1/2 mph during a 40-minute indoor group cycling class and 544 calories at a racing speed of between 16 and 19 mph. The same person burns 363 calories running at a speed of 5 mph and 522 at a pace of 6 mph.

Start Slow to Finish Strong

ACE advises beginners to these sports not to push themselves when starting out. If you choose group indoor cycling classes, spend some alone time on a stationary bicycle working out at your own pace. Similarly, if you decide to start a running program, don't pick up your stride too quickly. It's more beneficial if you spend some time walking on the treadmill for between 20 and 22 minutes at a time before starting interval training. For example, during your workout, try walking for five minutes and running for 30 to 60 seconds until you build up your endurance so you can run for 30 minutes straight. There's no need to focus on only one of these activities. Some recreational programs offer classes that incorporate both group cycling and running for people who want to train for a triathlon.

Deciding Factors

Running is a weight-bearing activity, and these exercises build stronger bones. Conversely, indoor cycling is a lower-impact, non-weight-bearing exercise that lessens the impact on your joints. One might be more appropriate for you than the other. When figuring out your fitness plan, the intensity of your activity is definitely something to consider. Running outdoors, especially if you change your route on a regular basis, can stave off boredom. Another deciding factor may simply boil down to what you're looking for: your daily allotment of exercise or a way to achieve personal milestones. Both exercises offer you the opportunity to test your limits and to exceed your own expectations; but the telling factor will be the one that makes you feel more eager.

For Your Health

Moderately-intense activities, such as walking and bicycling for pleasure, are safe for most healthful adults. However, if you're a man or woman older than the age of 40 and 50, respectively, you may need a medical checkup before you start exercising vigorously. You also need a checkup if you have heart disease or any other medical condition that makes indoor cycling or running risky to your health.

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