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 you're trying to lose belly fat, however, the exercise you choose is less important than the health benefits 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.
Cardio exercises, like cycling and running, combined with a calorie-reduced healthy diet, are proven methods for trimming your tummy. If you have knee issues, climb on an exercise bike. If you're pain free and have no joint problems, slip into your sneakers and hit the road.
What Belly Fat Is
Belly fat isn't the obvious layer of fat that lies just under the 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, according to a Harvard Health Publishing article.
High Impact vs. Low Impact
Although running is an 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 according to Runners World. 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.
Belly Fat Burner
Depending on the intensity level of your exercise routine, running and cycling are nearly neck and neck when burning calories.
According to Harvard Health Publishing's checklist of calories burned in 30 minutes, 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, that same person would burn 298 calories, while taking a moderate pace on a stationary bicycle would only burn 260 calories for the same half-hour workout.
Minimum Exercise Standards
A running program to lose belly fat 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 as a starting goal for good health, up to 300 minutes weekly if you're trying to lose weight, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
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 Health Publishing: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Rush University Medical Center: An Expert Opinion: Is There Really "One Trick" to Losing Belly Fat?
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Harvard Health Publishing: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Runner's World: Give Your Legs a Break With These Low-Impact Cardio Workouts