Cycling or Running – Which is Better For You

So you want to be fit, what sane people don’t? Being fit and healthy is a goal that we should all be striving for and cardio exercises go a long way in helping achieve that goal. Running and Cycling are perhaps the most common forms of aerobic exercises that people engage in around this ancient planet that we have civilized. Both are accessible to no end and to reap the benefits they offer you need naught but the shortest list of equipment and dedication in pursuit of fitness. Pursued outdoors, whether it is on the city streets or natural trails, both running and cycling offer many benefits but which is better? Well that sort of depends on your end goals and what approach you want to take in achieving them. This piece will help you figure out Cycling or Running – Which is better for you.

Losing Weight – You may be overweight, we are not judging, happens to most of us, we are just here to help. You want to lose that stubborn fat that has clung to your waist and so you are eating healthy, but you have to do more, you have to exercise. To achieve weight loss, you need to balance out between calorie intake (not too many or too few) and calories burned. You are quicker to lose weight by running initially, but cycling for a long amount of time can equal or even exceed the calorie loss from running. The weight loss from running or cycling really depends on how you engage in them and how you combine it with healthy eating habits. Running does burn more calories on average but cycling is easier on the joints which might allow you to cycle longer and burn more calories overall.

Cardiovascular Health – As the name implies, cardio exercises improve your cardiovascular health by leaps and bounds, running and cycling are no different and they are equally beneficial. Cardio exercises make your heart, lungs and circulatory system to work harder to support the working muscles. They help in strengthening your heart so it pumps more oxygen into your body, teaching it to pump more efficiently for the rest of time.

But as the saying goes “too much of a good thing”, if you are engaging in too much of vigorous running or cycling, you might want to ease up on the regimen. It is agreed upon by multiple studies that limiting your vigorous training to 5 hours a week or in other words an hour a day is the way to go as exceeding that may result on your cardiovascular health and we don’t want that.

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Burning Calories – A mainstay in your agenda if you are looking to be healthy is calorie burning. The number of calories you burn on cycling vs running really depends on the intensity and duration of time you do it. In general, running burns more calories as it uses more muscles but it is also higher impact and harder on your body. Cycling is gentler on your body and you may be able to do it faster and longer durations. While both are great for burning calories, running or cycling uphill burns more unsurprisingly burns more calories than doing so on a flat surface.

Your own baseline of calorie burning depends on a number of factors such as your age, gender, weight and then some, figuring out how many calories you need to burn while exercising to reach your personal fitness goals might require a chat with your doctor.

Building Your Muscles – Who doesn’t like to have a bit of a muscular look? Many people as it turns out but that should be irrelevant if you yourself want to look bulky. Cycling is the way to go there as running will not help with bulk, but it can help you develop stronger, toned muscles. Cycling can help you build up muscles in your lower half. Pushing pedals to cycle is resistant training that helps in developing muscles from your calves to quads and hamstrings to the glutes. The recumbent bikes target the glutes more than an upright bike as each push of the pedal is akin to a mini leg press. The top half of your body does get involved but not to nearly as much as the lower half but here is a tip: engage your core while cycling, as stabilizing muscles, your core has to work its fair share to balance the bike and keeping your body upright, engaging it puts it under further pressure and as a result help strengthen it.

Running engages all those muscles at the same time but not in a way that will build up much bulk. However the almost constant impact of hitting the ground will strengthen your muscles and bones.

Toning Your Muscles – Frankly speaking, any and all humans should want to achieve a certain level of toning in their physique as it represents an active lifestyle and physical strength of being. As mentioned before, running is better for toning muscles when compared to cycling. The muscles you use in a run mostly are your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes, much like cycling, your upper body is engaged but not as much as your lower body muscles are. The look of lean and toned muscles is achieved from overall body fitness and low body fat percentage. You can’t pick where you lose or gain fat, but you can chose which muscles you want to train. Training four to five times a week is effective in maintaining muscle tone in aging adults. To tone your muscles, it is better to exercise for a long period of time without reaching muscle fatigue so running for long stretches but at lower speed will help you achieve that toned look.

Expenses – Among other things to consider, is that cycling is more expensive than running. For running all you really need is a pair of running shoes and while a truly good pair isn’t cheap by any means, the initial investment of a bicycle and a helmet and maintenance cost of it makes cycling the more expensive option. If you are only willing to try out a new sport before making the choice, it is better to borrow a pair before making the investment. If you just want to up your cardio exercise, running is the cheaper option.

Health and Injury Concerns – If you have a chronic health condition, consult your doctor before starting or increasing a new exercise.  Overall cycling is gentler on the body but can increase lower back pain. It is generally safer to cycle and risk of injuries is higher when running but if you have trouble maintaining your balance on a bike, running or speed walking is the safer bet for you.

Conclusion – Neither among cycling or running is the obviously superior option, pick whatever suits your lifestyle better, or mix it up to reap the benefits of both.


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