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Cycling vs. Running: Is Biking Better Than Running?


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Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

is biking better than running

There are so many different disciplines that you can choose when it comes to your workout routine. Running and biking are two of the most popular and common. Which one reigns supreme, though?

Here’s our take on the matter. Is running or biking better as exercise? Which will you choose?

Is Biking Better Than Running?

Biking and running have a lot in common. They’re both excellent in terms of defense against cardiovascular disease and obesity[1], but that’s far from the extent of it.

Some athletes report that running is much more psychologically enjoyable, but die-hard avid cyclists will enjoy the same benefits if bike riders are what they prefer.

Biking brings with it other peripheral benefits—one of these is definitely the fact that it doubles as transportation. Bike commuting is good for you and the environment. Running is, as well, but your potential radius of travel may be limited to some extent unless you’re an exceptionally talented distance runner.

Does Biking or Running Burn More Calories?

Both cycling and running offer many of the same health benefits. Which exercise routine is better for weight loss, though? 

The simple answer: the one that you’ll be able to commit to long-term is the one that you choose. Both are great ways to burn calories. It all comes down to your personal fitness levels and your preferences.

Regardless of how many calories you’ll burn doing either activity, both biking and cycling offer you the following benefits:

  • Both can help you improve your heart health
  • Both are great for building lean muscle mass in your leg muscles
  • Running and cycling can be customized to varying fitness levels

Both forms of cardio have a lot to offer. Truly, the decision will come down to the amount of time that you have to spend on your workout routine and all the gear that you would like to invest in. 

What Is the Difference Between Running and Biking?

Running offers you more physiological training transfer[2] than cycling does, one of the most significant health benefits that running brings to the table. This is essentially a measurement of the efficacy of your workout; your maximum heart rate will also likely vary between cycling and running.

There is also respiratory performance to consider—sitting on the seat of a bike or an indoor trainer impairs one’s ability to breathe deeply to some extent, but you’re much more likely to feel fatigued after running at length.

Mostly, the difference boils down to two main factors: running can be high-impact, but it’s an amazing sport if you would like to burn slightly more calories and lose weight. Speed cycling, on the other hand, is very easy on your joints, but it might not be as intense as some athletes would like for it to be.

How should you be spending your sunny summer weekends? The following sections discuss how you can strike a balance between the strengths and weaknesses of both of these healthy habits.

How to Make Running More Low-Impact?

One of the few drawbacks of vigorous running on untreated terrain like concrete is that chronic exercise may take a toll on your body further down the line. Even the fastest runners know how important good running form is, even when running at a leisurely pace.

A few ways that you can protect yourself from chronic health conditions like arthritis and shin splints include the following:

  • In order to sustain fewer injuries, runners are encouraged to stretch well before setting out on a trek, upper body, lower body, and all. This will prevent hamstring muscle activity from keeping you down for the count.
  • Wearing fitness gear designed for aerobic exercise is not only more comfortable, but it might even be able to help you prevent things[3] like stress fractures. Casual clothes are less of a problem than casual footwear—just like choosing cycling apparel, good running shoes will make your workout much more effective and enjoyable.
  • Improving your running form will not only mean more calories burned; you’ll also be much less likely to sustain a chronic health condition related to running. Even fun disciplines require some thought and care.
  • Marathon runners are known for their ability to persist. If you find yourself fading, plan your route around a mid-run leisure experience, such as a cool museum on the way or a nice walk through the park.
  • Workout supplements may also provide a vital source of continuous fuel as you run.

Running burns slightly more calories than cycling, granted. At the end of the day, however, the number of calories that you burn matters less than the attention and care with which you implement all of your major muscle groups. 

The more you’re able to take care of your body, the more that running will be able to do for you, your happiness, and your long-term cardiovascular health in the end.

How to Make Biking a More Challenging Workout?

Few will argue that cycling exercise isn’t fun enough to choose over other forms of cardio exercise—with many absolutely incredible destinations to choose from, average cyclists have no problem getting out of the house.

While a thrilling sport, the most fun aspects of cycling do come with their fair share of drawbacks—namely, how many calories you burn while cycling depends a lot more on the resistance of the bicycle or the indoor bike computer. 

  • Great bike-handling skills put you in control of the vehicle—this not only keeps you safer but allows you to really get down to business, all without putting yourself at risk.
  • Another biking choice would be to choose an indoor trainer stationary bike, allowing you to dial in your resistance settings and exercise vigorously with much more control. Cycling is an incredibly tactical sport in this way, one of the major advantages to be found here.
  • Make it fun—avid cyclists visit scenic areas and enjoy downhill riding everywhere they can, including famous mountain passes and other natural wonders. This also leaves plenty of room for coffee stops mid-ride and the occasional meal mid-ride. The right cycling destinations and a trusty mountain bike turn you into a fitness tourist—incredible trail networks and other cool places to see can all act as motivation.
  • Teamwork cycling can also add a competitive edge to your bike workout. More calories burned, and a pal to keep you safe if you end up sustaining any cycling injuries along the way.

Many cyclists pride themselves on the intensity that they’re able to achieve on every excursion. Even if you’re biking at a much more leisurely pace, you can still make the most of it and build more muscles by simply cycling at length.

Running or Biking: As Long as You’re Sweating, It’s All Good

Depending on your circumstances, you’ll likely find that either running or biking may present some advantages over the remaining option. No matter which you choose, however, either form of cardiovascular disease is great for bone health, preventing cardiac disease, and weight loss.

It’s not difficult to adopt healthy habits. We recommend the option that fits your needs and lifestyle the best.

+ 3 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Kriel, Y., Askew, C.D. and Solomon, C. (2018). The effect of running versus cycling high-intensity intermittent exercise on local tissue oxygenation and perceived enjoyment in 18–30-year-old sedentary men. PeerJ, [online] 6, p.e5026. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6014319/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].
  2. Millet G (2021). [Physiological differences between cycling and running]. Revue medicale suisse, [online] 5(212). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19728452/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].
  3. Romani, W.A., Gieck, J.H., Perrin, D.H., Saliba, E.N. and Kahler, D.M. (2002). Mechanisms and management of stress fractures in physically active persons. Journal of athletic training, [online] 37(3), pp.306–14. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC164361/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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