The age-old argument again rears its ugly head! Well, it’s not quite age-old but the discussion does come up often enough about running vs. cycling that we should take some time to provide the pros and cons of each before deciding which one is the best for your cardio goals.
From a basic standpoint any cardio is good. Your body should be a fine tuned machine with a high level of cardiovascular fitness and the ability to maintain a regular pace of some activity. Not only does this help with weight loss but general health of your body and longevity of life. So if you could do only one between running vs. cycling which would it be?
Benefits of Running
Other than a pair of good running shoes, running requires no real equipment. You can do it in almost any terrain and any weather. Gyms routinely have a lot of treadmills or you can buy one for your home. From a calorie burning standpoint running is great because an average person can burn about 1000 calories running for one hour at 8 to 9 miles per hour pace. A more moderate pace of 5 miles per hour burns 500 to 600 calories.
From a muscle standpoint running incorporates both the upper and lower body. However emphasis is more on the lower quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. The arms, shoulders, abdominals, and glutes get a secondary workout. The stress on the leg muscles can vary based on training style (adding in sprints), stride length, and terrain (such as running up and down hills).
Because you are propelling your bodyweight with each stride running burns a very high number of calories. But this also means more stress on your body from the impact of running that will affect your joints and tendons. People with joint problems involving the back, hips, or knees will have a problem running.
Benefits of Cycling
This is a really nice low-impact exercise. People who have back pain are going to appreciate this much more than running. From a calorie burning standpoint you can burn about 300 calories in an hour going 10 miles per hour. The faster you go the more calories you burn. People who are overweight but a great amount (40 plus pounds) will find cycling easier because the knees and hips will take less wear and tear compared to trying to run with the extra weight.
But cycling is a more expensive proposition. If you have a gym then you have access to indoor cycling options. But if you want to cycle outdoors you can expect to spend a bit of money on a bike, helmet, and other equipment depending on your level of interest. Of course cycling can be done on or off road.
Generally speaking outdoor cycling is a more time consuming activity because of prep time in getting the bike out and ready. Also people usually plan on biking for longer periods when going for an outdoor ride. The muscles worked during cycling are slightly shifted with the quadriceps getting the majority of the work along with the calves. There is less upper body work than running (which involves constant arm pumping) because the arms and shoulders have more of a supporting role.
The Final Result
The result for running vs. cycling is that running wins out by far. Even if you aren’t in running shape, a routine involving fast paced running until you are ready to jog is a great stepping stone. The flexibility, low cost, and great amount of calories burned make this the better exercise for meeting your cardio goals. On top of that it will give you a better overall workout in regards to muscle tone.