Cycling vs Running for fitness

When I first realized I needed to take urgent action to reduce my weight and improve my fitness, I considered both cycling and running.

I wasn’t sure which one would be the best option for me. Which one would have the quickest results? Which one would be easier? Which one would be the best choice in the long term?

In the end I chose cycling, not because I’d compared the two and decided cycling would be more beneficial. It was just that I had such good memories of cycling when I was a kid.

And it worked. I fell in love with my bike and lost a hell of a lot of weight and felt much healthier. But I always wondered how it would have turned out if I’d taken up running instead. And just in case you’re wondering too, I’ve compared the two here.

They are actually two very different types of exercise. Cycling is more of a lower body workout, localized on your quads (the muscles at the front of your thighs) and legs. Whereas running is much more of a full body workout and demands much more from you, especially core support. And this means they affect you in very different ways.

Running to get fit

In terms of the calories you use up, running burns more per minute than cycling. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a person weighing 150 pounds that runs seven miles per minute will burn 1000 calories per hour, while someone cycling 16 – 19 miles an hour will burn 850 calories.

Fat oxidation is the process through which fat molecules are broken down resulting in a loss of fat. And both the University of Cape Town and the University of Birmingham have recently published studies that show that running produces significantly higher rates of fat oxidation than cycling.

So you’ll burn more calories and oxidize more fat running. But you might end up cycling for much longer, because it’s less tough on your body. And these are the biggest downsides to running: pain and injuries. Because it’s a weight bearing activity, it’s tough on your knees and joints. It’s painful. There’s a higher risk of muscle damage. And injuries are common.

In terms of practicality, it’s easier to start running than to start cycling. All you need is a pair of running sneakers. Whereas with cycling you need a bike! And while you can run almost anywhere, with cycling you really need to find a place that’s “bike friendly”. It’s also easier and safer to run in bad weather than it is to cycle.

But I think the big things for me are the pain and the injuries! These are especially important considerations if you’re overweight. I think you will probably feel more pain and discomfort if you’re overweight. And this obviously makes the exercise less enjoyable and increases the likelihood of giving up.

So yeah, you burn more calories and zap more fat when you’re running. But can you run for as long as you can cycle without getting fed up?And will you keep on running through the pain? Everyone’s different. But for me cycling was definitely the right decision. I don’t think my body would have endured the pain of running and I would probably have quit before I got anything out of it.

Cycling to get fit

I’m in much better shape now and I could probably take up running without destroying my body! Maybe I will sometime in the future. But for now I’m enjoying cycling too much and I really haven’t got anytime for any other exercise.

And if you’re overweight and unhealthy like I was, I really recommend cycling as a great low risk, low pain way to start loosing that weight and re-gaining your health!

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