Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume. Both cycling and running provide effective ways to burn those calories. The type of exercise that is best for you really depends on your personal preferences and physical condition. The exercise that will help you lose weight the fastest is the one you effectively perform and enjoy doing.
Running requires little skill and no special equipment, apart from a good pair of running shoes. Running can be done pretty much anywhere — in urban and suburban settings and even indoors on a treadmill. A 155-pound person may burn over 900 calories in one hour going at a 7.5-mph pace. Even a moderate 5-mph jog burns nearly 600 calories per hour for the same 155-pound person.
Cycling is a low-impact activity that suits people with joint and back problems. The Cleveland Clinic points out that people who are 50 pounds or more overweight may prefer cycling because it puts less stress on the hips and knees than weight-bearing activities. Cycling is a skill most people take to rather quickly, but outdoor cycling requires some technical skill in terms of dealing with differing terrain and traffic. Indoor cycling is appropriate for all fitness levels. A moderately paced ride burns about 520 calories in an hour for a 155-pound person, reports the Harvard Heart Letter.
Because it is a weight-bearing exercise and involves more muscles, running burns more calories. At the same time, running puts a lot more wear and tear on your joints and may be inappropriate for people with back, hip or knee problems. For either exercise to be effective for weight loss, you must work out at least 30 minutes at a time. Working your way up to sustain a consistent run takes time so as not to suffer injuries caused by doing too much too soon. You usually must undertake a month or two of walking and running intervals, which burn fewer calories than an all-out five-mile run. If you have a tight schedule, you may find cycling for hours an unrealistic way to fit in your workouts.
Several studies show that in terms of fat loss, running is a superior activity. A South African study published in the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" in February 2010 concluded that fat oxidation is significantly higher during running than during cycling at the same relative intensity. This study confirmed research published in the journal "Metabolism" in 2003 in which researchers also showed that a treadmill test on 12 participants elicited significantly greater fat oxidation than a similar intensity test performed on a cycle ergometer.
If you consider calorie burn only, running is the preferable activity for weight loss. Including both modes of exercise in your routine may help you manage your weight for the long term. Cross-training allows for maximum muscle activation and prevents injuries caused by overuse. If you are sidelined by an injury, you will be less likely to exercise overall, hampering your weight-loss progress. Even if outdoor cycling does not appeal to you, try an indoor group cycling class once or twice a week to break up your runs. Remember, however, that calorie control is still an important part of weight control.
- International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism:Higher Fat Oxidation in Running Than Cycling
- Metabolism: Fat Oxidation Rates are Higher During Running Compared with Cycling Over a Wide Range of Intensities
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Cleveland Clinic: What is the Best Type of Aerobic Exercise?
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.