What is Better for Fitness: Cycling or Running?

Bicycle Universe - Is Cycling or Running Better for FitnessFor many people planning to adopt any type of fitness regime, there is often posed a question between cycling and running, the question usually revolves around the hope of figuring out which form of exercise is better.

There’s actually no direct answer to this question, given that each sport possesses its own advantages and disadvantages. Both are classic hobbies and forms of aerobic exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors.

Nevertheless, let’s see if we can discern which is better between cycling and running.

So what is better for fitness, cycling or running?

Cycling definitely has a slight edge because of its lower impact on your body’s joints plus it exposes your body to less strain. It allows you to gain good body fitness levels even if starting on a gentle regime, unlike running where your muscles and joints are pounded from the start. This can be particularly true for people who may be unfit, as well as those with joint or muscular problems. Cycling IS the more comfortable option to start and is also easier to sustain for longer periods.

In this article, we consider the runoff between running and cycling as far as fitness, weight loss, cardio, and abs workout are concerned.

We shall try to show you the differences between which of the exercises are better for your general body fitness.

Both cycling and running are great forms of exercise that encompass rhythmic aerobic activities, involving large muscle mass. However, there are notable differences between the two that could tip the scale in favor of one activity or the other.

You could say that running has a bonus as it necessitates little equipment apart from your shorts a top and a decent pair of shoes, and is more plausible that it may be safer running rather than cycling when the weather is bad, but you don’t have to cycle on busy roads – it’s a choice.

A more technical explanation could be argued that running generally burns more calories compared to cycling, but this depends on the effort involved and clearly running is more strenuous on muscles and joints.

So, which one do you fancy? That will depend on your objectives for going into training and the path you choose towards achieving them.

What is better for your Legs, Running or Biking?

Cycling is a great form of non-weight bearing exercise that will help to build muscle in the lower half of your body. You see, you can concentrate your cycling effort so that it isolates your lower body and of course it has a low crash impact, making it effective for those who are just getting started or even those who struggle with muscle and joint pains.

The action of pushing the pedals while cycling in resistance training will achieve stronger and more toned leg muscles much quicker than running.

And even though the upper half of your body is also involved, the muscles aren’t always engaged as much as those in the bottom half.

Remember that the power which propels your cycle is mostly generated by your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, so you may realize significant gains in leg strength and/or bulk.

Meanwhile, running may lead to a gain in bulk but unless you are hill running it will be slower to help you achieve stronger and more toned muscles.

Running is also a weight-bearing activity in which your legs carry your whole body weight. This makes the impacts on your body higher as you hit the ground with your strides during your run, causing more strain on your muscles and joints in comparison to the smoother action of cycling strokes.

The shockwaves sent through your joints can cause muscle soreness and possibly expose you to more injuries for your knee joints and your ankles. Twisted or sprained ankles are far more common in running than cycling.

If you are trying to build toned leg muscles, I suggest cycling would be a more ideal training approach as the action of running can be too strenuous for your legs. This is why long distance athletes cycling in such races as the Tour de France have a longer shelf-life than their counterparts running in the New York Marathon.

Cycling vs. Running for Fitness

It’s possibly fair to say that running may be the better exercise for toning body muscles as it exercises the whole body. All the muscles in the body are simultaneously engaged during running and this leads to the burning of more calories.

A lean and toned muscle look is usually achieved through gains in general body fitness and reduced body fat. With running, your body doesn’t choose where to build muscles and lose fat; it is a full-body training activity.

The problem comes when you have to maintain the exercise for long intervals without experiencing muscle fatigue. This is the key to fitness.

Running is not the best for your stamina because it can lead to muscle pain and damage. The old adage of ‘No Pain, No Gain’ is not really true. You can’t be fully fit when your body is sore every time after a session of exercising.

One of the major benefits that cycling has over jogging is that it inflicts much less wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Cycling keeps you going for longer. It is gentle and low impact but still helps you to achieve overall body fitness.

Over years of training, that could be the difference between ending up with knee surgery for runners, and not having one for cyclists.

This also means that biking is a more suitable activity for older people who are trying to stay in top physical shape. It won’t cause any more physical damage to the already worn out and possibly age-related arthritic joints.

Is Cycling better than Running for Weight loss?

A big question this. For many people. (Make sure you read the last bit NB).

The key to losing weight is through finding the perfect balance between calories taken in and calories burned through exercise.

Through running, you may be putting yourself in a position to lose more weight considering that all the muscles in your body are engaged.

For the average Joe, just 10 minutes of running on a treadmill burns about 150 calories, and you can actually burn more when running on uneven terrain like sand or uphill.

In comparison, 10 minutes of cycling will burn you around 97 calories as you are basically sitting down and not supporting your whole body weight. However, because stamina is easier to attain on a bike, you can keep on cycling for longer, the number of calories being burnt will eventually meet and even exceed that of running before running yourself ragged.

Although running burns more calories on average, cycling may still just be the more preferred exercise for losing weight. This is due to the fact that cycling exerts less overall strain on the body, ensuring that the athlete is feeling less sore after the ride compared to when he completes a run.

This makes it easier and more practical to maintain a daily cycling routine for weeks, months, and ultimately years. The net result you get over a long period of time is that cycling can assist you to burn more calories and shed weight faster and more comfortably than running.

Running stresses the joints and is only more effective for short bursts; it can’t be sustained for the long haul. The biggest challenge in trying to lose weight is people adopting practices they are uncomfortable with. You will stop it as soon as you get the opportunity…this is not sustaining!

NB: Without considering changes to the diet, you must burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat in the body. Therefore, to lose 1 pound every week, you must burn 500 calories every day. The calories burnt in cycling and running eventually depends on your pace.

The potential to SHED WEIGHT through either exercise will ultimately be determined by how much effort you put in as well as the consistency with which you take part in the activity and at this point I think it would be fair to say that the majority of people who take up cycling tend to continue this habit for longer than those who take up running.

Cycling vs. Running for Cardio

Running is just as important as cycling when it comes to improving your cardiovascular system. Both exercises strengthen the heart muscles, enabling the heart to pump higher amounts of blood at a lower heart rate due to its increasing strength.

Your heart learns to pump blood efficiently at all times, and this means higher levels of oxygen are delivered to muscles throughout the body. The result here is improved body fitness.

The outcome appears to be basically the same for both running and cycling, which is an advantage to you because you can incorporate both of them in your training regimen to keep things fresh and exciting.

If you were to choose between the two for overall cardiovascular fitness, I would say both are excellent choices, although cycling may have a bit of an edge because of the ease with which you can sustain it. There is no muscle soreness to deal with as is the case with running.

The general thumb rule for a run-to-bike ratio is 1:3. What this implies is that running 1 mile at a moderate effort is equivalent to biking 3 miles at the same level of effort. 15 miles of cycling is equal to 5 miles of running at the same effort level.

However, if you are engaging in high-octane biking or running, you might want to limit your exercise to ideally no more than 1 hour. According to studies, vigorous training that exceeds 5 hours a week or 1 hour a day can eventually begin to have a counterproductive effect on your cardiovascular well-being.

How many Calories does a 10-mile Bike Ride Use?

Both biking and running are great ways to burn calories. If you are trying to burn the highest amount of calories within the shortest time possible, both activities are just about equal, especially if you are moving fast. A person weighing 130lbs will burn around 944 calories every hour of running a 6-minute mile. The same number of calories is burned when the same person is biking on a flat road at a speed of over 20mph.

When it comes to calculating the number of calories burned from cycling, you may use a specific formula. Generally, if you are a regular biker who exercises frequently, you will burn fewer calories compared to a couch potato who seldom gets on his bike. Ideally, the formula for calculating burned calories in doing any exercise is:

[(METs x 3.5 x kgs) ÷ 200] x time in minutes

NB: You can convert your weight into kgs by diving your lbs by 2.2.

METs can also be referred to as metabolic units, and it represents the amount of energy used when someone is biking 10 miles. The Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide directs that the METs value for cycling ranges between 4.0 for a leisurely ride and 16.0 for biking at 20mph.

This means if you are biking at 12mph, you will spend 50 minutes to complete a 10-mile distance. At 130 pounds, you will burn around 413 calories. If you are biking at a more comfortable pace with no pressure, you could be going at about 10mph, which will take you 60 minutes to bike 10miles. Eventually, the 10-mile ride will burn 248 calories of fat in your body.

Is Cycling good for your Abs?

Biking is actually a great form of exercise that builds your abs…Let me explain.

You need to understand that biking power comes from more than just your gluteal and leg muscles. Strong cycling power comes from working your core muscle unit; which the abs are, a significant part.

Yes, this is the one that everybody talks about – Maintaining Your Core.

The muscles around your abdomen play a big part in stabilizing your body during the ride and offering you a sturdy platform from which your body pushes from.

They are also instrumental in maintaining your balance. As you ride, your abdominal muscles contract isometrically to provide stability and these constant contractions help to tone your abs, as well as building your strength and endurance.

Exercises like crunches are excellent and well known for toning your abs. Additionally, poses such as the ‘plank’ build your abdominal muscles by forcing you to contract the muscles for a lengthy period of time.

I think the ideal option that offers you relevance and convenience, are the various exercises in which you can partake to strengthen your abs as you ride.

Try engaging in a quick ab routine whenever you find yourself biking on a long and straight stretch of road. Use the guide below to effectively develop your abs while riding:

  • Sustained Contraction: This is the easiest exercise you can carry out on your bike. Take a very deep breath and concentrate on tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold your breath in for about 15 seconds then breathe out. Repeat this any number of times; you can do this exercise at any stage of your ride and with practice doesn’t warrant your full attention.
  • Standing up and Leaning: Whenever you stand up, your abdominal muscles have to work even harder to support your body and keep you upright. Lift your backside up periodically and carefully lean over and towards the handlebars to achieve a position whereby your stomach is close to being parallel to the ground. Maintain this position for a count of 20 as you continue to pedal. Repeat a few times but don’t do too many.
  • Bike Crunches: Contract your abs as you draw one of your elbows inwards. Ensure your arms are on the handlebars as you continue pedaling. Keep on alternating the sides till you are tired or until a point when the ride requires your full attention.
  • Repeating Lift Off: As you continue to pedal, lift your body off the bike seat. Come down and touch the seat for a few seconds then go back up. Repeat this “up and down” cycle while contracting your abs. This will strengthen your abdominal muscles.

You don’t necessarily have to engage in all these ab workouts when you go out biking, and definitely, don’t struggle with incorporating all of them in the same ride.

However, taking the time to work your abs is an excellent way to develop your core. A stronger core serves to offer you better support and balance, which enhances your efficiency in overall fitness performance.

Is Cycling good for Stamina?

Most people can cycle for a longer period than they can run. Cycling has a low impact on your muscles and joints and allows you to keep going for longer periods.

It is basically sustained stamina training. Remember that stamina is the ability to keep on going even when it seems like you have reached your breaking point. You only build stamina by being consistent on the exercise you have adopted.

The advantage with cycling is that you get to exercise without putting too much strain on your muscles and your joints. This means that after every training session, your body will be relaxed with no soreness or damage.

Come the next session, you’ll be good as new and able to push yourself beyond your previous limit. This makes cycling a great endurance builder that will, in the long run, improve your body stamina.

What Other Factors Should I Consider when Choosing between Cycling and Biking?


Before you choose between biking and running, consider your account balance and the investment you are willing to make on the training regime. In most cases, a bike will obviously cost more than running shoes. Plus you might also want to purchase additional equipment such as a helmet, spandex, and water bottles.

For running, you possibly just need a nice pair of running shoes and maybe running attire. Your budget will, of course, be the significant determinant in what you choose to adopt as an exercise option.

Chronic Conditions

If you are suffering from any chronic health condition, it is imperative that you consult your doctor before the decision to start on either of the exercises. Generally, cycling is friendlier to the body due to its low impact, but it can increase the pain on your lower back. Running is more injury prone, especially if you are doing it at a high intensity for extended periods of time.


The weather conditions outside can also have a major influence if you don’t have the option of indoor training. Jogging can generally be done in most weather conditions. Even when the ground is wet, you can go on a run as long as you find the right shoes and do it at a slow pace.

Cycling on the other has its limits when it comes to foul weather conditions. It can be a challenge to cycle when it’s precipitating and biking in slippery conditions can expose you to injury.

Final Thoughts

From the article above, it is clear that in general cycling is a better option for fitness training than running. It takes less of a toll on your body, yet still helps you to gain the same kind of fitness level you can gain through running.

More importantly, your objectives have to come into play when deciding between the two. How long do you want to continue with the exercise and which muscles are you trying to build? Are you trying to lose weight or tone your muscles?

Whichever the case, I advise that you find yourself a personal trainer if you can. He will be able to design an exercise routine that is best suited for your body needs.

And the last thought is this – When out riding your bike, it can be extremely pleasurable to simply enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings, something of which I struggle with when my head is bouncing up and down running.