Cycling and running are very effective and easily accessible forms of exercise that provide many benefits for overall health and fitness.
But when you really think about cycling vs running, which one is better? Is one more beneficial than the other?
In this article, we will dive deep into each activity’s pros and cons to help you decide which one is best for you based on your goals and needs.
Cycling is a fun, engaging, and healthy form of aerobic exercise that improves heart health, mental health, joint mobility, and bone and muscle strength, among many other benefits.
Best of all, it delivers these advantages while being a very low-impact workout. This means people of all ages and abilities can integrate biking into their fitness routine—a short ride to work or the park daily can make a huge difference.
- Fun and enjoyable workout
- Low-impact aerobic exercise
- Gentle on the joints and muscles
- Much easier to sustain for long periods, especially when compared to running
- Easy to incorporate into one’s lifestyle
- Builds bone strength
- Good for heart health
- Boosts mental health
- Limits stress and anxiety
- Burns calories
- Develops strong muscles, especially in the lower half of the body
- Helps save gas on commutes
- Eco-friendly mode of transport
- Cycling for 30 minutes burns fewer calories than running for 30 minutes
- Does not engage muscles in the upper half of the body
- Relatively high potential for accidents and injuries
- More expensive than running
- Learning to ride a bike can be a challenge
Running is a high-impact aerobic exercise that burns many calories the longer you sustain it. It is fantastic for those who wish to lose weight as a regular running routine can significantly boost metabolism and energy levels.
Like cycling, running prevents cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, and other illnesses. And, of course, it is excellent for strengthening bones and muscles.
Running is also incredibly easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. You can go on a run around your neighborhood, in the local park, to the shops, and so on, anytime you want.
- Promotes cardiovascular fitness
- Alleviates stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions
- Burns more calories than cycling
- Better for weight loss than biking
- Builds stronger and more toned muscles
- Strengthens bones
- Boosts metabolism
- Increases energy levels
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Easy to start a running routine without much gear or preparation
- Great for beginners
- Less expensive than cycling
- High-impact workout
- Strains muscles and joints
- More difficult to sustain than cycling
- High potential for injuries
Comparison: Cycling Vs Running
Let’s compare cycling vs running based on some important parameters, such as heart health, weight loss, muscle growth, expenses, and others. This will give you a clearer idea about which is better for your health and lifestyle.
Cycling and running are both great for improving cardiovascular health. These aerobic exercises strengthen the heart and pump more oxygen into the body even after you finish the workout.
However, if you are into very intense running or cycling sessions, don’t overdo them. Multiple research studies have shown that intensive exercise for more than 5 hours per week or an hour a day can impact heart health negatively.
If weight loss is your goal, you must strike the right balance of caloric intake and exercise. Running is a great way to burn around 500 calories per hour and lose weight more quickly as it uses more muscles.
Cycling for extended periods is also great for weight loss. And because it is a low-impact activity, you can cruise for more than an hour each day and burn more calories.
Whether you choose running or cycling, your weight loss journey depends on many factors, such as workout intensity and the number of hours each week. Losing weight also depends on the type of food you eat.
According to a research study, cycling and running can reduce appetite. So if you want to control or even eliminate unhealthy cravings, these simple exercises will help you, too.
Although running is better for weight loss on a calorie-per-hour metric, cycling is much easier on the muscles and joints. So if you choose cycling as your primary exercise method, you can work out for a longer time and burn more calories in the end.
You can also burn more calories by running or cycling uphill than on flat roads.
If you have a specific weight-loss goal that you wish to achieve, it is best to talk to your primary physician, a nutritionist, and a physical trainer to advise you on the best path forward.
They will factor in your current weight, age, gender, diet, lifestyle, family history, and other factors to develop a strategy to help you achieve your fitness goals.
If you wish to build muscle, running is a great way to build stronger and more toned legs and thighs. It burns a ton of calories and utilizes the entire body at once.
This strengthens your muscles and bones through the regular impact of your body weight hitting the ground. Even running slowly for an extended period can lead to toned muscles.
However, if you want to really bulk up, running will not build a ton of muscle mass. For more bulk, explore weight training instead and switch to a clean diet with tons of protein.
Biking can also lead to strong and toned muscles, but the difference will be most apparent in the lower half of your body. Pedaling is a form of resistance training that develops the legs and thighs.
The upper half of your body—especially your core—will also get a good workout as you cycle, but they are not nearly as engaged as the lower half.
Whichever form of workout you choose, remember that consistency is vital. As per a 2011 research study, exercising four to five times a week helped active, aging adults maintain their muscle tone.
Develop a consistent exercise routine so you can work out for lengthy durations without experiencing muscle fatigue.
Research has shown that running causes bone tissues to send signals to the pancreas to support its metabolic needs over time, leading to quicker recovery.
In contrast, cycling has a lower impact on the body as it does not put much pressure on the joints. Riding a bike may also help minimize symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis, reduce pain and stiffness, and lubricate the joints.
Despite its many benefits for joint mobility, cycling may not benefit bone health as much as running, per a 2011 review.
Cyclists may also have a lower bone mass than runners, especially in the lower spine. Low bone mass can lead to fractures and other injuries.
According to the same review, biking has no more negative effects on bone health than a sedentary lifestyle. The link between the amount of cycling and optimal bone health is yet to be studied.
Additionally, ultra-endurance cycling may not support bone health. These cyclists tend to have more calcium in their bloodstream, weakening their bones.
There is potential for injury whether you run or ride a bike. Runners are prone to knee injuries, along with the following:
- Leg and foot injuries, including the thigh and Achilles tendon
- Pelvic injuries
- Back injuries
- Shin splints (inflammation around the shinbone)
On the other hand, cyclists usually suffer from the following injuries and afflictions:
- Knee pain
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Head injuries
- Pain or numbness in the wrists or forearms
- Genital or rectal pain or numbness
- Foot pain, numbness, or tingling
Those with preexisting injuries, especially in the utilized body parts, must consult their doctor to determine whether they can run or bike long-term. They may also have to take additional precautions while exercising to avoid further injuries.
If you wish to know which workout leads to more injuries, keep in mind that runners usually experience more inflammation compared to cyclists.
A study found that after three days of intense training, runners suffered more significant inflammation, muscle damage, and soreness than cyclists.
So if you wish to avoid excessive damage to your muscles or already experience chronic muscle soreness or inflammation, it is best to stick to casual cycling.
Biking is much more costly compared to running. Of course, you first need to purchase a bike to get started. If you plan to cycle indoors, too, you will need to buy a stationary bike.
Of course, you can rent a bicycle or go to a local gym, but you’ll be spending money either way.
Bikes also require regular maintenance to continue to perform well over time. You need various tools to take care of all the components or take it to professional mechanics for all its needs.
Add a high-quality, certified helmet and dedicated cycling clothes and footwear—it’s a lot of money to spend. If you plan to use special clothing and gear for running, those accessories can be expensive, too.
A good pair of running shoes will safeguard your joints, while activewear limits friction, prevents chafing, and wicks away sweat and moisture. They will allow you to run faster and for longer distances without difficulty or inconvenience.
That said, a bike is a fantastic long-term investment that will lead to many, many benefits.
Biking to work, the park, and all over your neighborhood will help you save thousands of dollars each year because you don’t have to spend money on gas or cramped public transport.
More importantly, biking does not harm the environment like other modes of transport, and is, of course, beneficial to your health. All in all, still a win, despite how much you have to spend.
If you wish to get started with cycling, it is wise to borrow a bike and biking gear to help you determine if doing it regularly will suit your lifestyle, personal preferences, and health goals. If you find it enjoyable, you can go ahead and make the investment.
Meanwhile, if you only wish to get in some cardio without spending much on gear, running is more than enough.
Is Biking Better Than Running?
Biking and running each have benefits and downsides. Running burns more calories per hour and is excellent for losing weight more quickly.
It also requires less equipment and is a cheaper hobby overall. So you can easily add it to your daily routine without spending a fortune on gear and accessories.
But cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that can help you build muscle. And crucially, cycling is much gentler on your body, particularly your joints and muscles.
At the end of the day, you should choose the form of exercise that best suits your fitness goals and lifestyle.
More importantly, you should go for cycling vs running based on which workout you enjoy most and will stick to for a long time. This will help you sustain your fitness journey and achieve your health goals more quickly.
You can also opt for both if you like! Go on a fun ride a few days a week and run on alternate days so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
We hope that you enjoyed reading our article on cycling vs running. If you found it helpful, browse our website for more such guides and blog posts. Happy exercising!
Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic