Cycling is an aerobic exercise, which is the kind of exercise you need to perform to lose fat on any part of your body. Aerobic exercise burns many calories, and the key to losing weight is burning more calories than you consume.
You can't perform exercises that target a specific area such as your waist and thighs; instead, you need to perform heart-rate-raising exercises like cycling that burn abundant calories and reduce your total body mass. Cycling will help you get rid of that excess fat but only in combination with a healthy diet.
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You have to lose weight all over to notice weight loss in your waist and thighs. But cycling is a great cardio exercise that will tone the muscles in your thighs and waist.
To lose weight on any part of your body, you need to burn more calories than you consume. A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so you need to burn an excess of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week, which is considered a healthy rate according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Achieving this deficit requires a combination of eating fewer calories and burning additional calories through exercise and increased daily activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two days of strength training per week.
Cycling, short for bicycling, can be done on a bicycle outdoors or on a stationary bike in a gym. You can cycle for long distances at low resistance, or you can ride hills for higher resistance over a shorter period of time. Cycling is often recommended for weight loss because it is easier on your joints than running.
It's considered a low-impact aerobic exercise, according to Mayo Clinic. Unless you're cycling at more than 20 mph, you'll burn fewer calories per hour than running at 10 mph. However, the low-impact aspect and slower pace makes it easier for non-athletes to follow a regular cycling routine.
Calories Burned Cycling
The number of calories you burn during any workout depends largely on your current weight. It also depends on how vigorously you exercise and the duration of your exercise. According to Harvard Health Publishing, if you weigh 125 pounds and take a leisurely pace on either an outdoor bike or a stationary bike, you will burn 520 calories per hour. If you weigh 185 pounds, on the other hand, you will burn 622 calories per hour.
At 125 pounds at a vigorous intensity, you would burn about 630 calories, and at 185 pounds at a high intensity, you would burn about 782 calories per hour. Generally, stationary bikes burn slightly fewer calories than real bikes, but you may have a harder time staying honest about your intensity on a normal bike, whereas gym bikes track the calories for you.
Cycling at a vigorous intensity does more than just burn calories. It's also linked to longer life expectancy, according to a February 2011 study of 5,000 cyclists in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
Read more: How Much Should You Cycle a Day to Stay in Shape?
Muscle vs. Endurance
Like any exercise, cycling can build specific muscles, which can cause you to put on more weight. However, as long as you are creating a calorie deficit with your diet, this should not occur, as muscles need extra nutrients and fuel to grow.
Still, if you want to wholly avoid building muscle and boost your endurance, cycle at low to moderate resistance for longer periods of time, rather than cycling at high intensity for short bursts. This will keep your heart rate elevated at a fat-burning level and help you burn an adequate number of calories to lose weight without giving you bulky muscles.
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calorie Counting Made Easy”
- Mayo Clinic: "Cycle Your Way to Better Health"
- European Journal of Preventative Cardiology: "Intensity versus duration of cycling, impact on all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study"