Cycling vs Running

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Cycling vs Running: which form of exercise fares better? In this article, we will help you discover what is best when it comes to cycling vs running for fitness

Cycling or Running Which is Best Exercise?

Firefox Bikes
28 Oct, 2022

Running and cycling are, by far, the commonest forms of aerobic exercise that people all over the world like to try. There has been a constant debate about the question, Is it better to cycle or run?

Several fitness gurus have chipped in and voiced their opinion on this matter. While both running and cycling have their pros and cons, picking between the two primarily depends on your fitness goal. In this article, we will help you discover what is best when it comes to cycling vs running for fitness.

Let us start by weighing out the pros and cons of running and cycling, respectively.

What are the Pros and Cons of Running?

The key benefits of running include:

  • The greatest advantage of running is that it does not involve expensive gear. All one needs is a pair of running shoes.
  • It is easy to incorporate running into your schedule as it can be done at any time and anywhere.
  • Running involves the movement of your legs, core, and upper body. Due to the involvement of more muscles, you burn more calories while running.
  • In addition to keeping you active, running promotes mental and physical health by improving your cardiac function and metabolism, maintaining a healthy weight, and preventing bone loss.

On the other hand, it possesses the following drawbacks:

  • Running puts stress on the lower joints, which now have to bear more than four times the body weight.
  • Given that it is a high-impact activity, you are more likely to develop an injury while running.
  • It could possibly lead to a suppressed immune function and is also deemed unfit for those who are obese or are suffering from bone deformity, hip or knee issues, and heart problems.
  • According to a UK-based study, running has been linked to irreversible breast sagging in women

What are the Pros and Cons of Cycling?

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When it comes to cycling, here are some of the major advantages:

  • Cycling has low impact on the joints and is less intensive, making it easier for individuals from all walks of life to kickstart their fitness journey. Plus, it allows you to reconnect with the world around you.
  • It is suitable for those with knee or joint injuries while still offering calorie burn and cardio benefits that are comparable to running. Everyone, regardless of their age, can enjoy the benefits of cycling.
  • Cycling is a great way to exercise even while you commute. Through cycling, you not only cover greater distances but also work on building muscles in your legs, glutes, and quads.
  • Much like any other exercise, the pedalling action of cycling is linked with health benefits like lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases or cancer and lower mortality.

While cycling may seem like an effective and feasible option, it also has the following disadvantages:

  • The clear disadvantage of cycling is the cost involved in acquiring the skill and purchasing a cycle and its accessories.
  • Terrain and weather play a very important role in determining whether it is a suitable exercise or otherwise.
  • With cycling, you may have to compromise on your comfort and deal with issues like chaffing and soreness in your butt.
  • Cyclists are at a greater risk of crashing or getting into accidents, even when they are practicing care.

From the above comparison, it becomes clear that running and cycling are near about comparable to each other, and both have certain pain points. Now, to better understand the advantages offered by each, let us consider cycling vs running, which is better with respect to different fitness goals or expectations:

Cycling vs Running for Cardiovascular Health

Cycling and running both perform equally well in improving your cardiac health. Both activities can be classified as aerobic exercises that elevate the heart rate, thereby enhancing oxygen concentration in the body. Running and biking train your heart to be more efficient in pumping blood.

However, care must be taken to not over-indulge in vigorous cardio exercise. Several studies indicate that running or biking vigorously for more than five days a week or 60 minutes a day can have detrimental effects on your cardiovascular health.

Cycling vs Running for Burning Calories

When comparing cycling vs running, we often wonder, What burns more calories? It is a well-known fact that cycling burns 498 to 738 calories per hour while running burns 566 to 839 calories per hour. On preliminary examination, one may think that running is more effective in burning calories.

However, the calories burned during an exercise also depend on the intensity and length of time for which the activity is carried out. Given that cycling is gentler on the body, individuals can cycle for longer durations, which makes it equally potent as running without causing any resultant exhaustion.

It may also be mentioned herein that age, gender, and weight are also dependent factors of effective calorie-burning.

Cycling vs Running for Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume. To maintain weight, the calorie intake and expenditure need to be balanced. As we have already discovered, running helps you burn more calories than cycling. Hence, running offers a greater potential to lose weight. However, once again, it is endurance that tips the scales in favour of cycling.

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Are you wondering whether cycling or running is better to lose belly fat? Once again, the verdict is similar. Both cycling and running are effective in burning belly fat as long as you can maintain a calorie deficit. The only differentiating factor would be your ability to sustain the activity. In this regard, it is advised to practice interval training while cycling or running where vigorous periods are followed by recovery or low-intensity exercises.

Cycling vs Running for Building and Toning Muscles

Does cycling build muscles?

Does running tone muscles?

Cycling helps in developing the muscles present in your lower half as the pedals act as equipment for resistance training. While the muscles present in the top half are also involved, the muscles in the lower half of the body are more actively engaged in working against the resistance and bulking up. Hence, cycling helps in building muscles.

On the other hand, running makes use of all muscles present in the body. However, it does not engage them in a manner that will contribute to building muscles. What running does manage to achieve are stronger, more toned muscles.

Cycling vs Running: Injuries

While it has been established that cycling and running are both prone to injuries, the nature of the injury varies depending on the exercise.

As reported by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, 48 percent of cyclists experience physical pain or discomfort in their necks with 36 percent in their groin or buttocks, 42 percent in the knees, 30 percent in backs, and 31 percent in their hands.

On the other hand, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 66 percent of runners report at least one running injury. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, runner's knee are a few of the common injuries reported by runners.

These injuries are perfectly avoidable with a little care and attention. The distinguishing factor between the two activities rests in the fact that cycling leads to less muscle damage, inflammation, and soreness when compared to runners (as discovered by researchers). Hence, running causes more muscle trauma, while cycling offers improved chances of recovery.

Top 5 Reasons Why Cycling Can be Better Than Running

So far, it may appear that cycling and running are both similar in several aspects. If you are still on the fence regarding which form of exercise is better for you, here are some clear advantages offered by cycling:

  • Coasting:- Apart from being a low-impact exercise, cycling offers the clear convenience of coasting, which basically allows you to go places without having to pedal. The running equivalent to coasting is standing, which is basically being inactive!
  • Ease and Simplicity:- Cycling is more forgiving on the body when compared to running. Running involves working against your weight and gravity, which can be challenging for some individuals. Propped by the advantages offered by wheels, cycling is the best way to adopt a healthy lifestyle for seniors and those struggling with obesity. Plus, you get to work out while you sit! What can be better than that?
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  • Witness New Scenes:- Cycling will take you places and show you memorable scenes that will be imprinted on your mind. Cycling allows you to cover more ground, and enthusiasts can sign up for tours through various picturesque trails of the California wine country and Italian dolomites. Plus, you can carry more items on your cycle than you can on foot.
  • Curbs Hunger:- Cycling helps in the regulation of acylated ghrelin, which is a key hunger hormone. Hence, it can not only aid you in your weight loss journey but also help you break an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Retail Therapy:- The variety of cycles are endless. You can pick one that reflects your personality and customize it to your needs. Further, when you take up cycling as a hobby, you will open up your world to an assortment of accessories like helmets, shoes and socks, glasses, caps and stem caps, arm warmers, jackets, gloves, vests, saddlebags, and more! Hence, you can endorse this sport as an expression of your personal tastes and style.

Cycling vs Running: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions when comparing cycling with running:

How much do I have to bike to equal running?

To convert your running miles into cycling miles or vice versa, you first need to consider the topology, efforts applied, and the pace of activity. When all the three factors coincide, the run-to-bike ratio can be assumed at 1:3.

This means that one kilometre of running at moderate effort is equivalent to three kilometres of cycling at the same effort for the same topology. Thus, you will have to put in thrice the effort for biking as you would have to while running.

Does cycling reduce waist size?

Yes! Cycling helps you burn calories, which results in weight loss throughout your body. As a result, you will not only lose belly fat but also cut off inches from your waist.

Does cycling make your legs bigger?

  • It depends on what you consider as big.
  • Do you think that cycling will make your thighs and legs look fatter? The answer is no.
  • Cycling for 15 to 20 hours a week will give you stronger hamstrings and quads that will attract envy from your peers. However, if you are a casual bicycle rider, there will be no difference in the muscles of your leg.

What is the better option - cycling vs running vs walking?

While cycling does bear a fair amount of advantage over activities like running and walking, it is a matter of personal preference while choosing the best and most effective workout.

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, the choice between cycling and running depends on your lifestyle and personal preference. Both options of cardio exercise are equally potent and efficient in meeting your fitness goals. Hence, the choice between the two is essentially your own call.

That being said, cycling does bear an unfair edge over running as it is comfortable and accessible to all irrespective of the individual's age or state of health. With cycling, you get to see the great outdoors without getting off your seat! Plus, your joints will thank you for that! One should also consider the fact that a cycle is a sustainable and planet-friendly form of conveyance to commute to work, which keeps you healthy even while on the run.

The advantage of cycling comes at a minor cost involved in purchasing a bike and safety gear, but it is well worth the investment, especially in the long run!