Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss? What To Know About Biking 2023

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss

Cycling is not only enjoyable for kids but many adults are interested as well as a way to stay active. Many adults are interested in cycling as a sport, a sustainable vehicle for transportation, or just as a hobby. 

No matter what, if you regularly do cycling, there are many beneficial health outcomes in doing so.

One of these benefits is weight loss and a change in body composition. If you want to lose belly fat and some pounds, you may consider cycling.

You may wonder if cycling on the road or a stationary bike is good for weight loss or how cycling can affect your metabolism.? Let’s dive into how cycling may induce weight loss.  

Is Biking Good For Weight Loss?

Cycling is a popular form of exercise that offers numerous benefits to those who participate in it. One of the most notable benefits of cycling is weight loss, which can be achieved through regular cycling sessions.

When you cycle, you are working multiple muscle groups, which burns calories and helps to increase your metabolism. These muscle groups cover the biggest muscles in the body, such as the glutes and quadriceps. 

Using these muscles increases your energy expenditure (i.e., your calorie burn) more than physical activity using smaller or isolated muscles. Therefore, cycling is good for weight loss in the belly area as well as on the stomach too.

Additionally, cycling can be a low-impact form of exercise, making it easier for individuals with joint issues or injuries to participate. This makes cycling a great option for individuals looking to lose weight and maintain it long-term.

Why Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss?

There are several ways that cycling can help you burn fat and lose weight. 

Increases Energy Expenditure

The body increases its energy expenditure or the amount of energy it burns in response to physical activity, metabolic processes, and environmental factors. 

You can burn many calories to lose fat through cycling, but the exact amount you burn depends on various factors,[1] such as the intensity and duration of your workout and your weight.

For example, according to Harvard Medical School,[2] a person between 125 pounds/56 kilograms to 185 pounds/83 kilograms cycling at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes can burn approximately 250-336 calories. 

Cycling and running have similar effects on weight loss, although they are often compared.

The more intense the cycling session, the more you burn calories. This means you can adjust the intensity of your cycling sessions to meet your weight loss goals.

In addition to burning calories, cycling can also increase muscle mass, which in turn increases your metabolism. It does this by increasing your resting metabolic rate (RMR), the amount of calories your body burns even when it’s not actively doing anything. 

This increase in RMR helps make it easier to maintain weight loss over time once you’ve reached your goal.

Helps Support Metabolism

Metabolic diseases like diabetes are closely related to weight gain. Like other exercises, cycling can improve insulin sensitivity, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

This is thought to be due to the increased demand for glucose during exercise,[3] which increases insulin sensitivity over time. 

One study involving type 2 diabetes[4] patients showed that cycling decreased blood sugar levels after meals. 

Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key factor in the development of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Cycling is a form of aerobic exercise that can improve heart health by strengthening the heart and blood vessels and reducing the risk of heart disease. This systematic review[5] involving  372 participants revealed that indoor cycling lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.

Increases Lean Muscle Mass

Even though cycling is primarily considered an endurance exercise and not effective as strength training in increasing muscle mass, it still has positive effects on muscles. Cycling requires the use of several muscle groups, including the legs, core, and even upper body. 

Increased muscle mass can result in higher resting metabolism,[6] meaning that the body burns more calories even when not exercising. Here’s how cycling can contribute to muscle growth:[7]

Targeting Specific Muscles: While cycling primarily works the muscles in your legs, you can also target specific muscle groups by adjusting your posture, resistance, and speed. For example, standing while cycling or increasing resistance can target the glutes, while sprints can target the quadriceps.

Improving Muscle Endurance: Cycling can help improve muscle endurance by increasing the time your muscles can work without fatigue. 

Increasing Blood Flow: Cycling increases blood flow to your muscles, bringing oxygen and nutrients to support recovery and growth. This can help your muscles repair and rebuild faster, contributing to muscle growth.

Enhancing Hormonal Response: Cycling can increase hormones such as testosterone[8] and human growth hormone,[9] which can help support muscle growth.

Boost Your Mood And Motivation

Exercise positively impacts mental health[7] by reducing symptoms of depression and improving your mood. Many times emotional eating is triggered if you are in a negative mood, and thus exercise can indirectly help in this way. 

Exercise releases endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals provide a sense of accomplishment and can improve self-esteem. 

Exercise, including cycling, also reduces[10] the body’s stress response by decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Furthermore, cycling can improve sleep quality by helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. This is thought to be due to the physical exhaustion and relaxation that comes with physical activity.[11] 

Good sleep is one of the pillars of weight loss success and overall wellness. By improving your sleep quality and routine, you may also be able to limit nighttime eating habits that don’t align with your goals. 

How To Lose Weight With Biking

Regularity Is Key

Regularity Is Key

If you want your exercise to work for weight loss and metabolic management, it needs to be done regularly.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine,[12] you need to exercise a minimum amount of time in order to develop and maintain body fitness. 

According to their recommendations,  if you want to lose weight, you should cycle a total of 150 minutes per week. This can be broken down into five days, for at least 30 minutes per day.

Stay In A Calorie Deficit

is cycling good for weight loss

To maximize the weight loss benefits of cycling and it’s important to incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise. If you are consuming too many calories from your diet for example, and eat more than you burn, you will not see weight loss results.

A healthy diet[13] should consist of nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. In addition, it’s important to stay hydrated before, during, and after cycling sessions to further support weight loss.

Combination Of Endurance Training With Resistance Training

Combination Of Endurance Training With Resistance Training

Studies showed that cross-training, which means combining your exercise with other kinds of training, may increase the number of benefits you receive. 

Strength or resistance training with endurance or cardiometabolic exercises together, such as cycling, might be more effective in weight loss. 

One study[14] involving sixteen physically inactive women with high body weight showed that doing resistance training before cycling sessions helped duce localized fat mass in the upper and lower limbs. 

Biking Options

Various biking options are available according to your needs, intended use, budget, and personal preferences, such as road, mountain, hybrid, and electric bikes.

is cycling good for weight loss

Road Bikes: Road bikes are designed for speed and efficiency on paved roads. They have lightweight frames, narrow tires, and dropped handlebars for a more aerodynamic riding position. 

Road bikes are ideal for individuals who want to cover long distances quickly and efficiently or participate in road races and events.

is cycling good for weight loss

Mountain Bikes: Mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain and off-road trails. They have sturdy frames, wide tires, and front suspension for a smoother ride on rough terrain. Mountain bikes are ideal for individuals who enjoy off-road adventures and want a bike that can handle challenging terrain.

is cycling good for weight loss

Hybrid Bikes: Hybrid bikes are a combination of road and mountain bikes, offering the best of both worlds. They have wider tires than road bikes and are in a more upright riding position than mountain bikes. This makes them suitable for a variety of terrains and riding styles. 

Hybrid bikes are ideal for individuals who want a bike that can handle a range of terrains, from city streets to light trails.

is cycling good for weight loss

Electric Bikes: Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, have a motor and battery that assist the rider’s pedaling. They offer a convenient and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation for individuals who want to reduce their carbon footprint or for those who need a little extra assistance on hilly terrain. 

Electric bikes come in a variety of styles, from road to mountain, and can be customized to meet your specific needs. But keep in mind if you get too much help from these bikes, you may not reach your physical fitness goals. 

is cycling good for weight loss

Indoor Bikes: Indoor cycling is one of the most practiced activities in fitness centers or at home for most people. You may wonder if a stationary bike/exercise bike or indoor cycling is good for weight loss. 

If you have access to an indoor bike,  you can get similar benefits with indoor cycling[5] regardless of your physical fitness level. Plus, on winter days, you are able to exercise comfortably in a warm, more comfortable environment.

Cycling Safety Tips

Bike riding is good for weight loss, but there are some rules and tips that you should consider for your safety. 

Use Of Helmet And Protective Clothing: Wearing a helmet, knee pads, and arm sleeves while cycling is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of head trauma and injury in the event of an accident. A properly fitted helmet should sit flat on the head with the straps fastened tightly under the chin.

Road Safety: It is essential to follow the rules of the road and be visible to other road users when cycling on the road. Wear bright or reflective clothing, use lights, and be sure to make your intentions clear when turning or changing lanes.

Proper Maintenance: Regular maintenance of your bike is essential for your safety as well as ensuring its longevity. Check brakes, tires, and gears regularly and make any necessary repairs or adjustments. 

If needed, adjust the handlebars, seat, and pedals before each ride to ensure it is the most comfortable fit for your needs.


Cycling is a great form of physical activity with a wide range of health benefits for all ages and fitness levels. 

By burning calories and improving cardiovascular health, cycling can help support weight loss and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. It can also help improve muscle endurance and strength, as well as boost mood, cognitive function, and sleep quality.

To get the most out of cycling, you may consider engaging in regular, moderate-intensity cycling and incorporating a balanced diet and other forms of physical activity into your lifestyle.

+ 14 sources

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  1. MacDougall, K.B., Falconer, T.M. and MacIntosh, B.R. (2022). Efficiency of cycling exercise: Quantification, mechanisms, and misunderstandings. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, [online] 32(6), pp.951–970. doi:
  2. Harvard Health. (2004). Calories burned in 30 minutes of leisure and routine activities – Harvard Health. [online] Available at:
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  4. Holzer, R., Schulte-Körne, B., Seidler, J., Predel, H.-G. and Brinkmann, C. (2021). Effects of Acute Resistance Exercise with and without Whole-Body Electromyostimulation and Endurance Exercise on the Postprandial Glucose Regulation in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized Crossover Study. Nutrients, [online] 13(12), p.4322. doi:
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Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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