Running Vs Cycling for Fitness

Running and cycling are two of the most common hobbies and exercises that people enjoy globally. Both activities are different forms of aerobic…

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Running and cycling are two of the most common hobbies and exercises that people enjoy globally. Both activities are different forms of aerobic exercises that people incorporate into their lives to meet their fitness goals. However, have you ever wondered which of the two sports is better for your fitness plan?

Over the years, athletes have been locked in an age-old debate, each claiming that their chosen sport is far superior to the other. Of course, the best fitness exercise depends on the specific goals you hope to get out of the workout. Both activities have health benefits to your body but it can be hard to choose which one to go for especially for a newbie. 

Of course, there are many benefits from running. For starters, it is more affordable, works great with other forms of exercise, and is great for burning carbs. But in the interest of the ongoing debate, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each so that you can pick one that best suits your needs.

In this article, we will compare cycling versus running to see how their physical and psychological benefits as well as their detractions stack up.

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The Goals of Your Fitness Regimen to Consider

1.       Building and Toning the Muscles

Both cycling and running can provide a full workout of your muscles, especially on the lower part of the body. However, experts recommend them as complimentary workouts because they work on different muscle groups in the body.

If you’re looking to develop strong and toned muscles without a lot of bulk, running is your option. Lean and toned muscles are usually a result of general body fitness and low body fat. Running engages all the muscle groups in your body simultaneously, but depends on how much power you can derive from your glutes, calves, and inner thighs. It however engages these muscles in a way that doesn’t allow them to gain bulk

The muscles however grow stronger from the impact of hitting the ground while running. The important thing with toning your muscles is to run for a long time without getting muscle fatigue. For active and aging adults, this entails running at least four to five times a week. You can also achieve a toned look if you run slower for but longer distances.

Cycling on the other hand is the best option for building muscle mass. It helps build the hamstrings and quad muscles, especially when cycling uphill. Pushing bike pedals is a form of resistance training that develops leg muscles. Cycling exercises not only the lower body muscles but also the top half too. However, the top half muscles are not nearly as engaged in cycling as the leg muscles.

2.       Improving Your Cardiovascular Health

If the goal of your workout regimen is to improve your cardio health, these two options are equally beneficial. When you are engaged in aerobic activities, you strengthen your heart making sure that it pumps more oxygen into the body. Cardio exercises such as cycling and running train the heart to pump blood more efficiently.

In case you want to engage in vigorous biking or running, you may want to limit your exercise to at least 1 hour per day. According to experts, if you engage in vigorous cardio exercises for more than 5 hours a week, you can experience negative effects on your cardiovascular health.

3.       Burning Calories

Burning calories is perhaps the number one reason that people engage in biking or cycling. Both running and cycling are great ways to burn calories in the body. However, the number of calories you burn in either of the exercises depends on the time and intensity of the workout you engage in it.

Generally, running burns more calories than cycling because it engages more muscle groups in the body. On the other hand, if your goal is to burn the most calories from your body in the shortest time possible, cycling and running are both equal contenders if you are running or cycling uphill than you would on a flat surface.

However, cycling is gentler on the body and one can be able to do it longer and faster than you would while running. The amount of calories that one can burn is dependent on weight, gender, and age among other factors. You can consult your doctor if you want an in-depth understanding of how many calories you need to burn to achieve your fitness goals.

© Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

4.       Weight Loss

For efficient and successful weight loss, one needs to balance the amount of calories intake into the body and the number of calories burned through regular body functions and exercises. Here, running takes the lead. You can lose weight faster if you engage in running exercises. However, if you cycle for long periods, the number of calories burned can actually meet and surpass that of running.

The amount of weight that an individual can lose in either running or cycling is entirely dependent on how much effort you put into the sport, and how you mix it with your eating and other lifestyle choices.

While averagely, running burns more calories, riding a bike will be gentler on your joints, allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories. In addition,  a study found evidence that both running and cycling help suppress appetite in young men. This means that by engaging in either of the sports, you can control your cravings, eat more balanced diets, and lose weight.

5.       Increasing Endurance and Stamina

Everyone starting an exercise regimen worries about their endurance- how long they can last. High endurance is essential for any type of exercise that you can undertake. If you can exercise for longer periods without risking an injury to yourself, the more you are likely to burn carbs, strengthen your muscles and elevate your heart rate.

Both cycling and running rely on an individual’s ability to build up a certain amount of endurance, which one can increase, as they get more comfortable with the activity. Some cyclists even try running to improve their endurance and vice versa. So, it can be quite hard to know which of the sports is more effective in terms of athletic endurance across activities.

However, if you’re looking to spend the most amount of time exercising, opt for cycling. It is easier to maintain over long stretches, with some people even considering the sport as a sustained stamina training. Running can help build endurance as well but at a risk of damaging the joints or muscles on your body. Clearly, both of these sports are great at building endurance but cycling takes the win because you can ride the bike longer than you would be running.

6.       Hunger Reduction

Over the years, many people have widely believed that running helps suppress hunger throughout the day more than cycling does. This perception however changed due to recent studies. They demonstrated that an hour of either cycling or running is equally good at suppressing the hormones that induce hunger in the body.

While an hour of exercise on either of the sports is enough to achieve hunger suppression, it is much easier to hop on a bicycle and pedal than it is to run for an hour.

Other Factors to Consider

Besides the health goals of your fitness regimen, there are additional factors that you have to consider before choosing which sport is best for you. 


Before choosing a workout regiment, it is wise to consider the amount of investment you are willing to use in such exercises. In most cases, running will be a cheaper option because you will just need some pair of running shoes and maybe some running attire. It might cost you approximately 100 to 250USD per year for a pair or two of running shoes and jogging clothing.

Cycling on the other hand is a significantly more exercise option because of the investment to buy a bike and the costs to maintain a bicycle over time. If you ask a serious cyclist how much it costs for such an endeavor, they might probably break down. Cycling has no end to the expenses incurred.

Even if you opt to buy a used bike, you will spend more than a years’ worth of running accessories. A new and well-equipped bike costs thousands of dollars. Plus, you could also use the same amount you spend on bike accessories such as cycling gadgets, clipless shoes, helmets, water bottles, and spandex.

Of course, the exercise option you choose will be determined by your budget. If you are seriously interested in taking up cycling for your workout regimen, consider first borrowing gear from your friends before making an initial investment. But if you are just looking for a sport for your daily cardio exercise, running is the cheaper option.

© Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

Time Management

Are you pressed for time? If yes, you need to choose an exercise option that will help you achieve your goals in no time. With all the work and family obligations, finding a good exercise option that fits your busy schedule can be a little hard. Many people take up a sporting endeavor and give up halfway through because of poor time management.

Before you commit to cycling or running, you have to ensure that the time spent doesn’t interfere with your schedule. If you have limited time, running may be a better option. You can burn the same number of calories running slower than when biking slowly. 

Besides, it takes a shorter time to prepare for running than cycling because of the biking gear and pre-cycling maintenance that cycling requires. Running is also a faster way to increase your heart rate since elevating the heart rate to the optimum levels requires more effort on a bicycle than on foot.

The Weather

Both cycling and running are fun and enjoyable outdoor activities. So, when the weather is not appealing, you are either going to postpone your workout session or take your exercise indoors.

Fortunately, due to advancements in technologies, both running and cycling offer indoor exercise options. Today, runners can easily get their workouts done on treadmills and indoor tracks. Cyclists can also exercise indoors with trainers and spin bikes. Thus, the weather will not be an excuse for not committing to your fitness program.

However, experienced cyclists are less immune to the weather than experienced runners. Besides, while you can comfortably run in the rain or through snow, it is riskier and harder to take a road bike out when the roads are covered in snow.

Injury Risks

Injuries can easily disrupt your well-planned workout routine. In both cycling and running, there are possibilities of one sustaining an injury while working out.

Running is a high-impact sporting activity compared to cycling. This can be attributed to the sheer shock of the foot repeatedly pounding on the ground while supporting the full weight of your body. On the other hand, riding a bike minimizes the weight supported by the feet while reducing the impact on the ground by moving your feet in a circle. Thus, cyclists are less likely to sustain overuse injuries than runners even though both are susceptible to such injuries.

Despite the low risk of overuse injuries for cyclists, they significantly face high risks for other injuries than runners. Almost half of the cyclists have experienced bike-related injuries because of some deep impact crash at some point in their lives while cycling. 

These injuries are caused by difficulties maintaining balance on the bike while cycling. This is probably why many people shy away from cycling as a workout regimen.

If you have any underlying health conditions, you might want to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regimens. Also, if you have trouble maintaining your balance on a bike, slow running may be a safer option.

Effects on the Body

There is a commonly held belief among the sporting community that running exhausts your body more than cycling. This theory was recently affirmed by a scientific study that sought to compare the effects of similar exercise levels across groups of runners and cyclists.

 The study found that when both parties worked out for two and a half hours for three days, signs of muscle damage were 133-404% higher in running exercises than in cycling. Moreover, runners had 87% delayed muscle soreness than cyclers and had256% higher inflammation levels. What this means is that running induces more trauma on the body than cycling.

© Photo by Talles Alves on Unsplash


The whole point of workout exercises is looking good, right? Indeed, the same accessories that you buy for your sport create room for you to add a personal style. So, you need to choose a sporting activity that compliments your personal style.

The only area you can customize with your personal style in running is a shirt, hat, and shoes. You can opt to choose a variety of brands and colors that best suit your lifestyle.

On the other hand, for cyclists, clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a myriad combination of options, which you can choose from to customize your riding experience. You could get a crazy helmet design, paint different shades of color on the bike, or even add unnecessary but cool accessories such as a media station.


Many people have a desire for adventure as they go through their workout routine. They can choose to work out in monumental places such as outside a museum or popular camping grounds. Such places may help them build morale for committing to their workout routine.

If you are tired of working out in the same old places, cycling is the best option. You can cover longer stretches as you explore new places on a bike. While running, most people can only cover a few miles for their daily workout routine. Even during a 26-mile course marathon, one only gets a limited area of sightseeing. This limits the number of places that one can visit away from your home.

In contrast, cycling offers more possibilities for one to explore their surroundings. For most cyclists, a 50-mile ride or more is the standard for a typical workout session. This provides a bigger range of possible places that one can visit in a single session.

The bottom Line

Both cycling and running are exciting exercise options with many benefits to your body. You can never go wrong while choosing one that best fits your exercise goals and lifestyle options.

You don’t necessarily have to choose one, but if you can take up both of them, it would be more advantageous for you. They both work to complement each other because they exercise different muscle groups. They also both aim at reducing excess body weight and building endurance.

However, if you can invest some time, money and are looking to have the most fun during your workout sessions, cycling may be the best option. You can cover extra ground, explore new territories, and customize your bike with personal preferences while still achieving your workout goals. There may be risks for injury while cycling but with time and proper training you can become a good rider capable of cycling even in the most treacherous of terrains.

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