Cycling & Health

Cycling vs Running – Which is Better?

  • Ninety One
    Team 91
  • 4-minute read
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Cycling vs Running – Which is Better?

If you have ever wondered or debated the better of the two -cycling or running, we are going to put an end to this long-standing question.

For starters, let's make the argument clear we are looking at better - as a holistic view and not through a narrow lens. So your argument includes multiple angles and not a single viewpoint.

So let's get started with one of the most sought out reasons, people choose to exercise Calories burned or to lose weight

1) Calories Burned for Weight Loss

When you do any activity, several factors like gender, age, weight, intensity, length of time spent, etc., can affect the calories burned.

As a general rule, running does burn more calories because it uses more muscle. So yes, running scores over cycling for calories burned over the same amount of time. But, most people, in general, will not run for the same amount of time and intensity as they would when they cycle. The reason for this is because both these reasons i.e, time & intensity makes it harder to run for a considerable distance that you can easily cycle. In fact, you will be able to manage to cycle two times, three or even four times your running distance. So you can easily make cycling as calorie-burning as running if you increase the length of time in cycling, which is easily doable.

And for weight loss to happen, you need to find the right balance between calories in through the food you consume and calories out, which are burned through routine activity and exercise. To quickly burn calories running is your best bet. But cycling for extended periods each time, you may be easily able to burn the same calories or even exceed those you can burn by running. If you're wondering how that takes us to the next point

2) Enjoyable

Running, though great for losing weight, tends to be limited by exhaustion. On the other hand, cycling is an activity that does not feel like you're exercising, even if you are doing it to lose weight. It is relaxing and enjoyable, and you tend to spend more time cycling and more often. And there are no ill-effects to cycling for more extended periods and even for an older individual. In fact, there are only benefits that stack up for cycling.

3) Life-long Activity

It's been said that even if you can't walk or hobble, you can still ride a bike.

While runners have a shelf life, of course, we see a few exceptions of older people practicing running. Whereas cycling age is hardly a limit. A cyclist can continue in their latter decades of life though it may reduce in rigorousness. Even an unfit person can enjoy cycling, and in continuing this activity, they can slowly get fitter.

4) Injury Effect

Any activity can be injurious to your body. But the worst culprit of all is inactivity.

While running, you have to make sure that the surface on which you run is good and soft. A hard surface like cement roads and similar can lead to injured knees. Even with cycling - using an incorrectly sized bike or incorrect riding posture could land you with aches and a sore body. That can easily be corrected by getting a right fit bicycle and ensuring that your posture while riding is not detrimental to you

5) Cardiovascular Health

Any cardio workout improves your cardiovascular health by strengthening your heart so that it can pump more oxygen into your body. Both running and cycling are cardio workouts and therefore bring heart health benefits. Besides reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cardio workouts also improve lung health, stimulate circulation, strengthen heart muscles, lower resting pulse rate, and reduce fat levels in the blood. It has also been found that both cycling and running reduce cancer and all-cause mortality.

So while both running and cycling are great for the heart, cycling is a better option for a person recovering from a stroke or other heart issues.

6) Muscle Building & Toning

When you cycle, you use all the major muscle groups, especially your leg muscles like your quadriceps and hamstrings. While running, you move your quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and plantar flexors.

Expect your legs to build muscles when you choose to cycle, unlike running, which stops at developing stronger and toned muscles overall.

Another benefit of cycling is the resistance training that you get from pushing pedals. While the top half of your body is also involved but not as much as the bottom half.

Cyclists are recommended to add weight training which is beneficial to building and toning muscles.

7) Bone health benefits

Running is considered better than cycling for bone health. Running has a higher impact as opposed to cycling, which does not exert force on the joints. It is recommended that cyclists add weight-bearing activities to their routing to cut the risk of low bone mass, which can lead to fractures. On the positive side, cycling may reduce symptoms of arthritis, lubricate the joints, and reduce pain and stiffness.

8) What About the Money?

Cycling is perceived to be a high-cost activity. There's the cost for the bicycle, the helmet, and other accessories that you may need. On the other hand, running seems to attract hardly any cost other than running shoes. However, you'd be surprised how much a good, reliable pair of shoes would set you back by. Good shoes designed especially for running that require protecting your joints while running on hard surfaces and can put you back by quite an amount. Not only that, you are recommended to replace your running shoes after you have used them for about 500 to 700 km that should take around five to six months for a regular runner. With cycling, it's more of a one-time investment with low maintenance while the benefits derived percolate over a longer period both in terms of fitness & utility value.

9) Takes You Places

The great thing about cycling is that it takes you further and faster. You can cover a lot of ground in a short span of time. You can participate in touring and can travel anywhere and everywhere.

That's much more interesting than running because you may limit yourself to your local surroundings, or just run in the gym on a treadmill.

10) Commuting Benefit

The biggest excuse, justifiably though for most people who do not partake in physical activity is time. So if you do not have time, or cannot make the time whatever your choice of sport be, you cannot get a benefit. However, with cycling, you can include it as your mode of commute all the way or even a last or first-mile connectivity. You get the benefit of exercise or physical activity without using more of your limited precious hours.

So that's a yay for cycling over running.

So as we started off and spoke about the multi-lens view on which is better - running or cycling, we can now conclude that the benefits do stack up more for cycling than for running. However, it all depends if calorie burning is all that matters then run, looking for a lifestyle change then cycling may more fit in with your plan.

But finally, it all comes down to what you really enjoy if you find cycling boring, there's no sense in making it your activity of choice. You are not going to stick with something you do not enjoy.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this debate. Do share by writing to us in the comments section below.

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