Cycling vs. Running: which is best for you?

4 min


Running and cycling are well-known sports and hobbies that people all over the world enjoy. Both are aerobic exercises that can be done outside, either on city streets or on trails in the woods.

Running usually burns more calories than cycling. But it’s also harder on muscles and joints and has more impact. So, which is best for you? That depends on what you want to do and how you plan to do it.

If You Want to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Running and cycling are both good for the health of your heart and blood vessels.

Aerobic exercises make your heart stronger so it can pump more oxygen through your body. When you do cardio exercises like running and biking, your heart learns to pump more efficiently the rest of the time.

If you run or ride a bike hard for more than 60 minutes a day, you may need to cut back on how much you do. According to a summary of a number of studies, vigorous exercise for more than 5 hours a week, or 60 minutes a day, can actually start to hurt your heart health.


If You Want to Burn More Calories

The number of calories you burn depends on how hard you work out and how long you do it for.

In general, running uses more muscles, so it burns more calories than cycling. But cycling is easier on the body, and you may be able to do it longer or faster than you can run. If you run or ride a bike uphill for any part of your workout, you’ll burn more calories than if you did the same activity on a flat surface.

Your base calorie burn is based on your age, weight, gender, and other things. Talk to your doctor to find out how many calories you need to burn while exercising to reach your own health goals.


If You Want to Build Your Muscle Mass

Your lower body can get stronger if you go cycling. Running won’t make you very big, but it will make your muscles stronger and more toned.

Biking is a good way to build leg muscles because you have to push on the pedals. The muscles on the top half of your body are also used, but not nearly as much as the muscles on the bottom half.

Running uses all of the muscles at once, but not in a way that builds a lot of muscle mass. But your bones and muscles will get stronger the more you use them and hit the ground.


If You Want to Tone Your Muscles Faster

Running may be better for toning muscles because it works your whole body and burns more calories. If you want to see results, you’ll need to add weight training and maybe even change your diet.

Lean, toned muscles usually come from being fit all over and having low body fat. You can’t choose where your body gains or loses fat, but you can choose which muscles you build.

Trusted Source found that active older adults who worked out four to five times a week kept their muscle tone well. The key to toning is to work out for a long time without your muscles getting tired.

You might get a more toned look if you run slower but for longer periods of time.


Other factors to keep in mind

When deciding whether to ride a bike or run, think about these other factors:

  • How much are you willing to pay?

Cycling is more expensive than running because you must buy a bike and pay to keep it in good shape. You also need a helmet and might want to buy special shoes and clothes.

But a good pair of running shoes can be pricey as well. You can also wear a lot of high-tech clothes and gear when you run. Good shoes protect your joints, and special clothing for sports can help pull sweat away from your body. This gear could help you keep running for longer.

If you want to start cycling, try borrowing equipment before buying it. Running is the cheaper choice if all you want to do is try a new sport to get more cardio exercise each week.

  • Do you have a chronic illness?

If you have a chronic health problem, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program or making it harder.

Cycling is easier on the body as a whole, but it can make lower back pain worse. Running is more likely to hurt you, but if you can’t keep your balance, running or speed walking may be safer than cycling.

The bottom line:

Cycling or running doesn’t stand out as a much better choice than the other. Choose the one that fits your life best to make sure you’ll enjoy it and keep doing it. You can also switch back and forth between the two to get the most out of each and keep from getting bored.
Work with a personal trainer if you want to get specific results, like losing weight or toning your muscles. They can make an exercise routine that fits your needs.

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