Body fat, and therefore excess weight, is the result of consuming more calories than you burn. Let’s say you need 2,000 calories a day to maintain your current weight, but you actually eat 2,200.
That’s a 200-calorie surplus, and those excess calories will be converted to and stored as body fat. Do this long enough, and you’ll soon gain weight. One pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories of unused energy.
Losing weight involves eating less and moving more to create a calorie deficit. It’s only when you are in a deficit that your body will start to burn stored body fat for fuel. No shortage means no weight loss, period.
Reducing your calorie intake is as simple as eating less. All weight-loss diets work this way, and there are lots to choose from, including keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting.
Similarly, there are lots of ways to burn more calories, from CrossFit and strength training to working out on an elliptical, treadmill, or rowing machine.
This raises the question, is cycling good for weight loss?
This article explains how cycling can help you lose weight and the pros and cons of cycling and cycle-based workouts.
Is Cycling Good for Weight Loss
How Can Cycling Help You Lose Weight?
When it comes to cycling, you can use lots of variations to help you lose weight. Your options include:
- Road cycling
- Mountain biking
- Cycle commuting
- Stationary exercise bike
- Assault bike (AKA fan bike)
- Spinning and other group exercise bike classes
The good news is that ALL forms of cycling can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Cycling, like most good cardiovascular workouts, uses the large muscles of your lower body. As you push the pedals around, these muscles demand more oxygenated blood.
This increased demand for oxygen leads to an elevated heart and breathing rate and an increase in energy expenditure. The harder you pedal, the higher this demand becomes, and the more calories you’ll burn.
Depending on how hard you cycle, riding a bike will burn anywhere from 300-600+ calories per hour. Combined with a calorie-controlled diet, riding a bike can add to your calorie deficit, leading to weight loss.
Aerobic exercise, where your heart rate stays around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate, uses mostly fat for fuel. However, riding faster and harder burns more calories in total. Also, intense bouts of cycling will increase your metabolism for 16-24 hours after your workout. This is called the afterburn effect.
So, whether you cycle at a constant, moderate pace for 40-60 minutes or hard and fast for 20-30 minutes, cycling can help you lose weight. However, you’ll get better results if you combine your workout with a sensible eating plan.
Additional Benefits of Cycling
Done regularly, and hard and long enough, cycling can help you lose weight, especially when combined with a reduced-calorie diet.
However, this workout offers a few additional benefits:
Unlike running, cycling is a low-impact workout, so it puts minimal stress on your joints. When you run, your feet hit the ground with force equal to about 6-8 times your body weight.
That’s a lot of stress if you weigh 140 lbs. but it could be very uncomfortable and cause injury if you are 200 lbs. plus and overweight.
With less impact to worry about, you are free to focus on your workout and won’t experience so many aches and pains compared to running.
If you cycle outside, you will soon find that riding a bike is a cheap and environmentally-friendly form of transportation. Once you’ve bought your bike, running costs are minimal.
You may even find that you get from point A to point B faster than other forms of transport, as you’re less likely to get held up by other traffic.
Great For Interval Training
Indoor cycling is the perfect place for interval training. Interval training not only burns more calories while you are working out but also increases your post-exercise metabolism, creating an even bigger caloric deficit.
Ride as fast as you can for 20-60 seconds, rest for a similar duration, and repeat 6-10 times for a sort but effective workout.
An Excellent Way To Exercise Outdoors
While there is nothing wrong with gym-based workouts, cycling is an enjoyable way to get outside and exercise in nature. You can cycle to explore your local area or travel further afield. Cycling is also a great way to exercise with family and friends.
Ideal For Home Workouts
Exercise bikes don’t take up a lot of space and are usually very quiet in use. This makes them perfect for home gyms.
There are many different exercise bikes to choose from, including models with electromagnetic brakes, fan wheels, and large flywheels. Most have LCDs or can be linked to apps to provide motivating feedback on how your workout is going.
Done regularly, cycling can definitely help you lose weight. However, there are a few potential downsides to consider too:
Risk Of Collision
If you ride your bike outside, the biggest danger is other road users.
Protect yourself by always obeying the rules of the road, wearing a helmet, having lights on your bike, and wearing high-visibility clothing.
Long bike rides and workouts can leave you feeling sore. This is especially true if your bike is not set up correctly or you have an inappropriate saddle. Some saddle-sore issues can be avoided by wearing padded cycling shorts or using a gel seat cover.
It Can Be Boring
Along bike ride outside means you’ll get to see changing scenery and other road users. Stationary cycling is nowhere near as engaging. Many exercisers soon start to feel bored when all they’ve got to look at is the wall in front of them.
Make indoor cycling workouts more enjoyable by listening to music or an audiobook or watching videos.
Lower Body Only
Cycling only works your legs. A well-balanced workout should also target your upper body. At the very least, you’ll need to combine cycling with some upper body exercises to develop all-around fitness.
Sitting on an exercise or regular bike invariably involves rounding your lower back and hunching your shoulders. This can be both uncomfortable and could have a negative impact on your posture.
Most people already spend too much time hunched over desks and computer keyboards and screens, and cycling could make matters worse.
Cycling, indoors and outdoors, is a popular workout. Indoors, you can do long, steady-paced workouts or interval training to burn calories, lose weight, and get fit. With no traffic to think about, you are free to focus on pedaling your way to health and fitness.
Outdoors, you can ride a bike for transport, pleasure, or even for sport, burning calories as you do so.
However, you’ll need to pay extra attention to things like the condition of the road, the weather, and what other road users are doing to keep themselves safe.
All types of cycling are good for weight loss, so it’s simply a matter of choosing the one you prefer. You don’t even have to limit yourself to just one type of workout; you could do indoor cycling Monday to Friday and then head outside on your “real bike” and enjoy outdoor cycling at weekends.
Because cycling involves the large muscles of your legs, every pedal revolution burns calories and can help you lose or maintain your weight. You can go long and slow, short and fast, or do interval training; they’re all beneficial.
Get the best results from cycling for weight loss by making changes to your diet. Also, remember to balance your bike workouts with some upper body training, too, even if it’s just a few pull-ups, push-ups, and crunches.