Doing cardio exercise such as cycling for at least 300 minutes per week is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the greatest weight loss benefit. How much weight you lose depends on how intensely you exercise and how you adjust your diet to maximize weight loss.
For the greatest weight loss benefit, you should be cycling for at least five hours, or 300 minutes, each week. You can easily achieve this with one hour of exercise per day, five days per week. You can increase calorie burn by cycling longer or increasing the intensity of your workouts.
Cycling for Weight Loss
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends aiming to lose one to two pounds per week. This rate of weight loss is most likely to be sustainable and is a healthy rate for your body. To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume. The rate of calorie burn while cycling depends on the intensity of your workout and your bodyweight. According to Harvard Health Publishing, in one hour of cycling, a 125-pound individual will burn:
- 480 calories cycling at a speed of 12 to 13.9 miles per hour
- 600 calories cycling at a speed of 14 to 15.9 miles per hour
- 720 calories cycling at a speed of 16 to 19 miles per hour
- 990 calories cycling at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more
In the same hour, a 185-pound individual would burn:
- 710 calories cycling at a speed of 12 to 13.9 miles per hour
- 888 calories cycling at a speed of 14 to 15.9 miles per hour
- 1,066 calories cycling at a speed of 16 to 19 miles per hour
- 1,466 calories cycling at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more
Assuming you were eating an appropriate amount of calories to maintain your weight and not overeating before beginning cycling, achieving weight loss of at least one pound per week is easily achieved when cycling with no change in your diet. Individuals who want to jump-start their weight loss or who cannot exercise for five or more hours each week can still meet their goals by cutting calories and maintaining a healthy diet.
Benefits of Cycling
Weight loss is not the only benefit that comes with bicycling. Biking is a fun activity that you can do outdoors while exploring your neighborhood or trails around your house. You can bike to work or school and get in a workout while taking advantage of an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.
In adverse weather, or if you do no have safe streets and trails to ride on, you can still get in a cycling workout with a stationary bike in your home. Most stationary bikes allow you to adjust the intensity to simulate hills that you may encounter outdoors.
Bicycling is also a low-impact cardio activity. This means that it is easy on your joints and an excellent choice if you have arthritis or other joint pain. It is also less likely to cause pain or injury to your joints compared to a high-impact activity such as running.
Some cyclists experience knee pain. This may be due to a lack of strength in your leg muscles to support your joints. Consult your doctor to rule out injury and adjust your workouts to build intensity slowly as your strength improves.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Pennsylvania State University News: "The Medical Minute: The Many Health Benefits of Cycling"