There’s no doubt that both running and cycling are excellent forms of exercise but is one better than the other when it comes to fat loss? What about muscle growth? There are certain benefits and differences between each that might sway you to pick one over the other or perhaps incorporate both.
Both running and cycling are cardiovascular sports which are known to be high-calorie burning activities depending on the intensity and length of time they are performed. The amount of calories a person will burn will depend on their particular age, bodyweight, duration and pace of their run or cycle, so it’s important to determine your own baseline.
In general, since running requires the use of more muscles, it burns more calories. However, cycling is a lower-impact, “gentler” activity, so a person may be able to do it faster or longer than they could run. This is also a better option if someone has an injury that prevents them from performing the high-impact activity of running.
When talking about weight loss, of course, this will all depend on your calories in and your calories out. As mentioned above, running is a great option if you’re looking to lose weight more quickly since it generally burns more calories. By the same token, cycling could potentially be performed for a far longer period of time, resulting in high-calorie burn as well.
So, whether you’re running or cycling, your fitness and weight loss goals will depend on how you participate in the activity as well as a healthy nutrition plan. On the plus side, if weight loss is your goal, a small study showed that both running and cycling suppressed appetite in a group of young men.
If muscle growth is your fitness goal, you’re better off opting for an intense, uphill cycling session. Of course, the muscle growth will be limited to your lower half as cycling predominantly uses only your legs. Since running uses all of your muscles, it burns more calories, resulting in a more ‘toned’ and lean look. By adding weights or resistance and changing your diet, you can affect the results of each activity. Work with a personal trainer to develop a plan to help you accomplish your personal and specific goals.
The great thing about both running and cycling is that they are equally beneficial when it comes to affecting your heart health. Performing aerobic activities such as running and cycling helps strengthen your heart, pumping more oxygen into your body, which can help reduce your risk of chronic disease and lengthen your lifespan.
The bottom line
There is no “better” option when it comes to running or cycling when it comes to your fitness routine. It all depends on which one fits your lifestyle, physical capabilities, and fitness goals. If you’re looking to specifically gain muscle or lose weight, you can tailor your personal program to fit those needs and reach those goals. If you have a chronic health condition or injury, you’ll want to talk with your doctor before starting any fitness program.