For many, riding a bike is just a way to get from point A to point B. But cycling can also be an effective weight loss tool, providing low-impact cardio exercise that is easier on the joints than running. Cycling also strengthens and tones the major muscles of the legs, sculpting the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. As with any new exercise program, start slowly and respect your limits.
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Losing weight with cycling can be as simple as taking a short bike ride before breakfast. Riding at a slow-to-moderate pace on an empty stomach for 20 minutes before breakfast every morning can burn more than 1,100 calories a week according to a 2013 article by Outside Online. The key is to take it easy: don't ride as fast as you can without fuel. Think of it as a rejuvenating warmup to the new day ahead.
Change Your Pace
You don't have to keep up a ferocious pace throughout your whole ride to lose weight. It's actually more effective to ride in intervals, pushing hard for two minutes and then slowing down for two minutes. Riding hard the entire time wears you out, causing your power to gradually diminish. Slowing down, however, allows you to recover and then push hard again. According to Bicycling.com, riding in intervals will give you greater speed and strength in the long run, upping your weight loss potential.
Shake up Your Route
Challenge yourself by tackling hills, which burn calories while also building core strength. Try alternating between sitting and standing while you go up hill, as standing raises your heart rate, helping you work harder and burn more calories. Standing also works your shoulders and triceps. Outside Online notes that taking an off-road ride can burn more than 600 calories an hour. To handle rougher terrain, you'll need a bike with fatter tires and, if you can afford it, suspension features.
Commute by Bike
If you generally drive to work, consider commuting by bike instead. Weight Loss Resources notes that most people who drive to work travel five miles or less, a manageable distance with regular training. Not only can you potentially lose up to 13 pounds in a year just by cycling to work, according to Outside Online, you can also save money on fuel and support the environment by reducing carbon emissions. This may be a good option if you're short on free time.