Bike riding is not the miracle belly-fat burner you're looking for. It is, however, one of many cardio exercises that's recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to keep fit.
A few variables, including your weight and how hard you pedal, will determine just how many calories you'll burn.
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To burn body fat you must create a caloric deficit, or burn more calories for energy than you consume in a day. A low-calorie diet combined with exercise is the ticket for losing fat from all over your body, including your belly.
You can lose belly fat riding a bike as long as you eat a calorie-reduced diet and ride for at least 30 minutes a day, every day, at a vigorous speed.
Create a Calorie Deficit
Bike riding on its own will not lead to fat loss if you're eating too many calories. You must first get control of your diet and watch your calorie intake if you hope to succeed in the battle of the bulge.
According to Health.gov's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a moderately active 30-year-old female can consume 2,000 calories per day. To lose about 1 pound per week she needs to reduce her caloric intake to 1,500 per day, and the average moderately active 30-year-old man can lose a pound a week by consuming 2,100 calories per day instead of 2,600.
That's 500 calories less per day than the average man and woman need to eat to maintain their weight. However, this is just an estimate — how many calories you need to eat to lose weight will depend on your current weight and how active you are.
Read more: The 3 Secrets to Losing Belly Fat
Bike Riding Burns Calories
Riding a bike regularly will help you achieve the caloric deficit you need to lose weight, in combination with your healthy diet. If you reduce your daily calorie intake by 250 calories, and you burn another 250 calories per day riding a bike, you can theoretically expect to lose about a pound of body fat per week.
That's assuming that you're currently taking in the calories needed for weight maintenance and not consuming a significant surplus of calories. If you are, you'll need to up the ante, reducing your daily calorie intake by 500 or more and biking enough to create the necessary calorie deficit.
Of course, you could potentially not change your diet and just bike ride enough to burn 500 to 1,000 calories per day, but that's not possible for most people, and not the best way to lose belly fat.
Calories Burned Bike Riding
Many variables are at play in calculating calorie burning, including how much you weigh and the pace at which you peddle. Harvard Health Publishing offers estimates of calories burned riding a stationary bike at different intensities for 30 minutes for people of different weights:
- At a moderate intensity, a 125-pound person burns 210 calories, a 155-pound person burns 260 calories and a 185-pound person will burns 311 calories.
- At a vigorous pace, a 125-pound person burns 315 calories, a 155-pound person burns 391 calories and a 185-pound person burns 466 calories.
Biking outdoors can increase your calorie burn due to factors like varying terrain and wind resistance:
- Cycling at a pace of 14 to 15.9 miles for 30 minutes will burn 300 calories if you weigh 125 pounds and 444 calories if you weigh 185 pounds.
- Cycling at a pace of 16 to 19 miles per hour will burn 360 calories if you weigh 125 pounds and 533 calories if you weigh 185 pounds.
- Cycling at a pace of 20 miles per hour will burn 495 calories if you weigh 125 pounds and 733 calories if you weight 185 pounds.
The Spot-Reduction Myth
Although your goal is to lose belly fat, you may need to work at it a while before you see results. You can't pinpoint one place on your body to lose weight, says ExRx.net. With proper diet and exercise, you'll lose total body fat, not just belly fat.
And, depending on certain variables, it may take you longer to lose belly fat than the person on the bike next you. For example, women tend to lose body fat more slowly than men.
Body shape also plays a role. If you naturally have an apple shape and store more fat around your abdominal region, it will likely take you longer to lose it in that area. However, sticking to a healthy diet and regular exercise and staying in a calorie deficit will eventually garner the results you desire.
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition: Chapter 4. Active Adults”
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2010: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- ExRx.net: “Fat Loss & Weight Training Myths”