Whether you're looking to fit into an old pair of skinny jeans or to improve your health, cardiovascular exercises like running and cycling are proven fat-loss methods. When trying to lose belly fat, however, the exercise you choose is less important than the health benefits that it provides. While both running and cycling are effective at decreasing your waist size, losing weight is the only sure method of losing belly fat.
What Belly Fat Is and Isn't
Belly fat isn't the obvious layer of fat that lies just under your skin on your abdomen. Belly fat is the layer of fat between your abdominal muscles, surrounding your internal organs. Because you can't spot reduce to remove either the outer layer or deep internal layer of fat, you must lose weight to lose belly fat. A combination of a healthy diet and an exercise program, which includes aerobic exercises such as running and cycling, is the only effective method of reducing your belly fat.
High-Impact vs. Low-Impact Aerobics
Although running is effective method for reducing your overall body fat, including belly fat, it is a high-impact activity and may lead to foot, leg and hip injuries. If you have a history of knee or ankle problems, you might find yourself unable to train for long periods. While you may not burn as many calories in a single session, riding a bicycle or stationary bicycle is low-impact and easy on the joints. If you experience knee pain while running or are recovering from an injury, your doctor may recommend cycling to build up the muscles around your knees and maintain your exercise routine.
Intensity of Exercise
Depending on the intensity level of your exercise routine, running and cycling are nearly neck and neck when burning calories. A 155-pound person may burn as many as 614 calories in one-half hour when running at 10 mph or cycling at more than 20 mph. However, when running or jogging at a moderate 5 mph, you'd burn 298 calories, while taking a moderate pace on a stationary bicycle only burns 260 calories for the same one-half hour workout.
Minimum Exercise Standards
Running requires more stamina than cycling. If you have trouble keeping the same pace for more than 10 minutes while running, you might have more success with cycling. Maintaining a raised heart rate for at least 30 minutes while cycling will lead to more calories burned and increased overall fat loss. Because you can only lose belly fat by losing fat over your entire body, it's important to participate in physical activities for a minimum of 150 minutes per week, or 300 minutes weekly if you're trying to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Add a Healthy Diet
To lose belly fat, you must burn more calories than you consume. Adding a healthy, low-calorie eating plan to your goal of losing belly fat helps you lose weight faster than exercise alone. While running and cycling are both viable fat-loss methods, they work only if you commit to a regular exercise routine. Choose the one that you enjoy the most, or alternate running and cycling to keep yourself from becoming bored with the same daily routine.
- Harvard Heart Letter: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Harvard Women's Health Watch: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- Rush University Medical Center: An Expert Opinion: Is There Really "One Trick" to Losing Belly Fat?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American Council on Exercise: Indoor Cycling