When trying to lose weight by exercising you have a lot of workout possibilities. One of them is cycling, is it good for weight loss?
The human body uses energy in the form of calories day in, day out. By increasing the amount and intensity of movement you raise the amount of energy you use. If you use more energy than you absorb from food, your body turns to body fat to supply that extra energy.
You can cycle both as transportation or as a workout. In both cases you will certainly burn extra calories, which can lead to body fat burning. But just how good is cycling for weight loss?
Cardio versus HIIT versus Weight Lifting
All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body they impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.
Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.
The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.
Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor of how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen.
Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. An amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat.
This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the amount of calories you burn 24/7.
Cardio and HIIT
Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.
This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.
Do this for long term weight loss
So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.
For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.
You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout.
Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.
If you really don’t like doing weight lifting, chances are you won’t stick to it.
In that case a cardio workout, or in particular cycling, can be the better choice for weight loss.
Is cycling good cardio for weight loss?
If you’re more a fan of cardio exercise you still have a lot of different options. One of them is cycling.
Keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels,… influence it.
The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercise for 30 minutes (1).
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (vigorous): 391 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. These measurements are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.
You can check out the specific article on how many calories cycling burns for different time intervals and bodyweights.
Bicycling does pretty well compared to other workouts.
Is 30 minutes of cycling a day enough for weight loss?
The numbers make it more clear just how much cycling can help you lose weight.
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How much cycling is enough for weight loss will also depend on the amount of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many things that influence it.
30 minutes of cycling a day at a moderate intensity would help you burn an extra 1820 calories per week which is about half a pound of body fat. One hour of cycling a day 3640 calories and so on…
Benefits of cycling for weight loss
The amount of calories you burn with cycling is good compared to most other cardio workouts but there are other benefits too.
First of all, compared to something like running, cycling is less rough on body parts like your knees and back. If you injure your knee the amount of exercise often goes down to 0.
Another benefit is that cycling is an actual useful mode of transport. Depending on where you need to go you might be able to swap the car ride for a bike ride. You can also bike as a mini day trip. This can be both relaxing and good for weight loss.
Is stationary cycling just as good?
You don’t have to use a “real” bike to cycle. You can also do indoor, stationary cycling for weight loss both in the gym or at home.
Except for maybe the effect cold weather and sunshine can have, stationary cycling is pretty much as good in terms of physical movements.
Indoor bikes can help you do your bike workout no matter what weather it is. If you get your own stationary bike you can also save time by not having to go to the gym.
Can cycling help lose belly fat?
Losing belly fat is mostly not about what specific exercise you do but about total calories.
Since cycling helps you burn a decent amount of calories it can help you lose belly fat. In general, the more intense and the longer you cycle, the more calories you burn.
If you want to get started with cycling to lose weight it can be good to get a plan. This can help you push your limites more compared to just saying “I’m going to cycle as fast as I can for as long as I can”.
Keep in mind that it’s smart to slowly build up intensity when you have not worked out in a while. Too much exercise too soon can have negative effects for some people.