Is Bike-Riding a Good Exercise for Losing Weight?

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Cycling is a great low impact form of exercise.
Image Credit: gbh007/iStock/GettyImages

A biking exercise routine might be exactly what you need to lose those pesky pounds. Like other types of cardiovascular training, cycling burns massive calories. It's also a great way to boost your endurance and build lower body strength.

Tip

Cycling at a fast pace is a good way to burn calories and raise your metabolism. Even shorter rides can help you keep fit, build stronger bones and improve your overall fitness.

Cycle Your Way to Leanness

Biking isn't just a cost-effective means of transportation — it's also a fun way to get trim and burn calories. It shapes your legs and buttocks, keeps your heart healthy and boosts overall fitness. Crank up the intensity and you'll torch 315 to 466 calories in just 30 minutes on a stationary bike, reports Harvard Health Publishing. The heavier you are, the higher your energy expenditure.

Even if you're not in the mood for a heart-pumping workout, you can still reap the benefits of cycling. Riding a stationary bike at a moderate intensity for half an hour burns anywhere between 210 and 311 calories, depending on your weight. A real bike can help you burn even more calories because your body has to work harder to maintain balance.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burning 1 pound of fat requires an energy deficit of 3,500 calories. A 155-pound person will burn about 391 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous exercise on a stationary bike. If you ride your bike for half an hour each day for one week, you'll torch 2,737 calories. Cut an extra 100 calories a day from your diet to lose 1 pound per week. Better yet, add other exercises to the mix to build lean mass and boost your energy expenditure.

Read more: Calories Burned Biking One Mile

A small study published in the Journal of Education and Training Studies in April 2018 assessed the effects of spinning cycling training on body composition, or fat-to-muscle ratio, in sedentary women. Subjects were asked to ride a spinning bike three days per week.

By the end of the study, which lasted six weeks, women who were obese became overweight and those who were initially overweight achieved a normal weight. Obese individuals carry more body fat than those who are overweight, which may cause further health complications.

As the researchers note, subjects lost approximately 4.7 percent of their body weight. Spinning cycling is particularly beneficial due to its high intensity. This training method raises post-exercise energy expenditure, meaning that you'll keep burning calories after finishing your workout. However, the study was small, so further investigation is needed to see whether these findings apply to larger populations.

Biking Exercise Comparison

A high-intensity biking exercise program will burn more calories than strength training, hiking, walking or swimming laps, according to the American Council on Exercise. This activity has a higher MET score than most types of exercise. MET stands for "metabolic equivalent" and can be used to measure the intensity of activities.

One MET is the amount of oxygen consumed at rest. Riding a mountain bike uphill is approximately 14 METs, which means your body consumes 14 times more oxygen than it does while sitting. The more intense your workout is, the higher the MET value and the more calories you burn. Here are other popular activities and their MET values, as reported by the American Council on Exercise:

  • Running at 14 miles per hour: 23 METs
  • Jumping rope: 12.3 METs
  • Running at 6 miles per hour: 9.8 METs
  • Cycling at 12 to 13.9 mph (moderate intensity): 8 METs
  • Hiking: 7.3 METs
  • Riding a stationary bike (moderate-to-vigorous effort): 6.8 METs
  • Walking: 4.3 METs
  • Weight training: 3.5 MET

If you go for a bike ride in an urban area, you'll still get a more intense workout than hiking, walking or riding a stationary bike. Go uphill and pedal faster to burn more calories.

Don't fall for the "fat-burning zone" myth, as described by CHAMP Uniformed Services University. While it's true that cycling at low intensity will cause your body to use fat for fuel, you'll burn fewer calories overall. High-intensity workouts are more effective for fat loss than low-intensity workouts. This applies to any type of exercise, not just cycling.

Get Leaner, Fitter and Healthier

The health benefits of cycling go beyond weight loss. Like other forms of cardiovascular exercise, it promotes mental well-being and may protect against heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. According to a research paper published in Transport Reviews in June 2015, cycling to work may lower the risk of death from all causes by nearly one-third.

As the scientists point out, higher intensity cycling is even more beneficial. This fun-yet-challenging activity has been shown to improve muscular strength, functional fitness, cognition and aerobic endurance. On top of that, it's more satisfying than driving a car or taking the bus, found a study published in Transportation Research in September 2014.

Read more: 8 Impressive Benefits of Indoor Cycling Workouts

Another advantage of cycling over other activities is that it's easier on your joints. This makes it ideal for all ages, including the elderly. Plus, it stimulates the release of endorphins, leading to a better mood.

Riding a bike is good for your bones and muscles as well, says Harvard Health Publishing. This activity may help increase bone density while strengthening your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and core muscles — to name just a few. Over time, it may improve functional fitness and make everyday activities easier, which is particularly important for seniors.

Biking Exercise Tips and Considerations

From weight loss and stronger muscles to a better mood, there are plenty of reasons to start a biking exercise program. However, there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge.

First of all, just because you're riding a bike, doesn't mean you'll get leaner. Weight loss requires a calorie deficit, meaning you must take in fewer calories than you burn.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to eat lots of protein and healthy fats if you want to feel fuller for longer. These nutrients take longer to digest than carbs, leading to greater satiety. Poultry, lean beef, eggs, cottage cheese, avocados and Greek yogurt are all a great choice.

As far as cycling goes, keep the intensity up and ride uphill as often as possible. Use your bike as a means of transport to squeeze more exercise into your routine. You can even add high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, to the mix to burn more calories. Pedal as fast as you can for 30 seconds, slow down for another 30 seconds and repeat.

Read more: Choose Your Own Adventure With This Customizable HIIT Workout

Another option is to combine cycling with bodyweight training, especially when you're riding your bike in a park. Find a quiet spot, park your bike and do a few push-ups, burpees or jumping jacks. That way, you'll make your heart pump faster and get a full-body workout during your ride.

references
Show Comments