Running vs Cycling: Which is better for weight loss?

Different forms of exercise have been proven to aid weight loss.  Running and cycling are two of the most effective workouts that can help you shed off some pounds. According to Professor Hirofumi Tanaka, director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas, running and biking are both rhythmic aerobic activities that involve the use of large muscle mass.

Each of these forms of exercise has its advantages. Running, for one, doesn’t require any equipment or skill. Cycling, on the other hand, is a low-impact exercise that’s beneficial for those with back and joint problems. But which one is better for weight loss? Let’s compare and contrast the two!

Stamina building

At first glance, it would seem that running will build your stamina. That’s partly true as you increasingly exert effort as you run. However, when you look at long-run stamina this can lead to muscle soreness and damage, says Nick Grantham of the English Institute of Sport. Meanwhile, cycling provides sustained stamina. Its low-impact nature allows you to bike longer. Thus, if you have to lose a significant amount of weight over a longer period of time then cycling will get you there with less strain on your muscles. Cycling is the clear winner according to this criteria.

Calorie shedding

According to the Mayo Clinic, a 160-pound person running at 5 mph burns 606 calories in one hour. If the same person bikes at less than 10 mph, he will burn 292 calories. The American College of Sports Medicine also had the same results when they made calculations with a 150-pound person running at seven minutes per mile and burned around 1,000 calories per hour. When the same person biked at a steady 16 to 19 miles per hour, he burned 850 calories. Running makes use of your entire body, which explains the increase in calorie burning. It also strengthens your cardiovascular endurance while doing so. There’s no doubt that running wins this round.

Muscle forming

Since cycling involves the use of quads, glutes, and hamstring you can expect your legs to bulk. Try using dumb-bells for your arms as well so that the muscle growth will be in proportion to your legs.  Meanwhile, trying to build significant muscle by running can lead to strain on your joints. Sustaining a fast pace or pushing yourself too much can be risky if you’re only doing it to build your muscles. This time around, cycling clearly wins.

Fat burning

Fat loss leads to weight loss. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that fat oxidation is way higher during running compared to cycling when done with the same intensity. An earlier study published in 2003 in the Metabolism journal also showed the same results with 12 participants on a treadmill test getting higher fat oxidation compared to an equal-intensity test on a cycle ergometer. Running is the sure winner on this one.

Injury preventing

Just as in any physical activity, biking and running have injury risks. For every 1,000 hours of cycling, six injuries can occur. According to British Cycling coach Matt Parker, one of the best ways to minimize injuries is by ensuring that your legs don’t fully straighten when you bike.

Meanwhile, for every 1,000 hours of running, 11 injuries can happen. Sprinting causes more wear and tear to your knees and joints. It can also cause back and hip problems. Simon Costain, a podiatrist at Gait and Posture Center, said shockwaves compress your vertebrae temporarily. During a race, the vertebrae of marathon runners shrink by one centimeter. It comes back, though, don’t worry. Having said that, cycling wins when it comes to injury prevention.

In short, running and cycling will both help you lose weight. The two questions you need to ask are, “How soon do I need to lose weight?” and “How many pounds do I need to shed off?” If you’re not in a hurry and you need to lose a lot of weight then cycling is the way to go because you’re looking for a long-term, slow, and regular workout. Meanwhile, if you want to lose weight faster then you better start running! Just make sure that you pace yourself well as you run. Don’t exert yourself too much or you’ll incur an injury. Choose a form of exercise that will be enjoyable for you so that you will be motivated to do it consistently.   

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