Running or Cycling: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Fact Checked

Tonya McIntosh

Tonya McIntosh—The main person behind TGFFitness as its Founder and Chief Editor. Get to know more about Tonya


person cycling on the road

Personally speaking, I have been an active bike rider for as long as I can remember. I can spend several hours a day cycling around the neighborhood. I have yet to explore ‘unknown’ and ‘adventurous’ terrains on my cycle, but that is another story altogether.

I love cycling because it not only helps me unwind mentally but also allows me an enjoyable platform to torch unwanted calories. However, I have runner friends who vouch that their form of exercise is just as fulfilling and effective (maybe even more so than cycling). Naturally, I gave running a shot. Long story short, it is an experience on its own, but my body doesn’t seem to have the endurance for running long distances.

Being part of a friends circle that enjoys being physically active, our hangout sessions often involve topics about the same. One of the exciting subjects of our discussion being: which is better for weight loss: running or cycling?

Several interesting discussions and a bit of my own research combined led me to pen down this article. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Weight Loss

Female Measuring Waist Color Measuring Tape

Both cycling and running are great calorie-burners. However, if we consider things on a general level, running may be a better way to lose weight quickly. Nonetheless, if you cycle rigorously for a long duration of time, you may burn just as many calories (maybe even more) than running.

At the end of the day, the time you spend on a certain physical activity determines the number of calories you burn. Other factors, such as your eating habits and the intensity of your physical activities also play a role in how quickly you lose weight.

All that said and done, studies indicate that any form of physical activity, whether it is running or cycling, reduces a person’s appetite. This could explain why most people who exercise often make changes to their diet sooner or later.

Lose Belly Fat

The thing about losing belly fat is that it is not always easy to spot. That is unless you burn a lot of calories, which results in a dramatic weight loss. But this is not always recommended, for health reasons.

The sensible option here is to engage in interval training. It works for both running and cycling. In interval training, you start with a five-minute warm-up session. It is followed by a minute of vigorous sprinting or biking, then two minutes of a lower-intensity exercise or recovery. Ideally, you are to repeat this cycle for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Figuring out and sticking to a running or cycling regimen that works for you is vital. But it is also important to remember that a strict workout regimen may not be enough. Many health enthusiasts vouch for the fact that watching what you put into your body also helps.

If your midsection is your primary area of concern and you want to focus your workouts on taking care of this problem, we’ve got a tip for you. Try adding strength exercises to your running or cycling regimen. You’re likely to see quicker and more visible results. Building muscles helps improve your body’s resting metabolic rate, which helps maximize fat-burn.

Calorie Burn

The intensity and the duration of time you spend exercising have their say in how many calories you burn. That said, running torches more calories than cycling. This is because of the simple fact that the former requires more muscle use.

Nonetheless, cycling is gentler on the body than running. So, if your body isn’t physically up for a strenuous run, cycling may be the better option. It requires lesser energy than running, which means you can cycle for a longer time than you can running.

If you’re like me (in the sense that you prefer cycling to running), you can pick up the pace on your cycle so you burn off more calories. Going long distances or cycling uphill are effective ways to burn off more calories. If you’re simply looking to get a bit of cardio workout, cycling on flat surfaces will do.

Aside from the points discussed above, it is important to note that certain factors determine your baseline of calorie burn. These factors include gender, age, and weight. Seek the help of a medical or fitness expert to figure out your calorie burn plan.

Cardiovascular Health

Both forms of exercise help with weight loss, but they are also advantageous for many other health benefits. One of them includes improved cardiovascular health. Both cycling and running are equally beneficial when it comes to bettering your cardio health.

They both promote good heart health – strengthening it to pump oxygen more effectively within your body. However, here is a word of caution – working out excessively can have a negative impact. If you’re engaging in intense running or cycling, you may want to limit your workout time to about 60 minutes each day.

Building Muscles

woman with dumbbells in both hands at the gym building muscles

The act of cycling requires the engagement of your muscles. The muscles in your upper body may not get as much exercise as those in your lower body. But, they are involved in the process. If you’re hoping to build the lower half of your body, cycling is a great way to go about doing so.

On the other hand, running requires the use of all the muscles in your body at the same time. However, it does not engage them as much as cycling does. Therefore, running helps more with toning and strengthening your muscles. It doesn’t necessarily aid muscle building.

Toning Muscles

Running is an excellent form of exercise if you’re looking to tone your muscles. It engages your entire body in one go and effectively helps burn calories. However, if you want to see results, add some form of weight training to your running regimen. It will also help to make some changes to your diet.

Our social media feeds are blessed with pictures of lean and toned influencers. To work your way towards a similar body type, focus on toning your muscles. You may not be able to pick which parts of your body loses or gains weight. However, you can choose which muscles you want to build.

Studies show that working out four to five times a week effectively helps maintain toned muscles. This rule applies even if you’re an aging adult who enjoys being physically active. To tone your body, run long stretches but at a slow pace. You want to avoid muscle fatigue.


Cycling is a lower impact way to exercise than running, which is why you can go on for longer. On the other hand, running requires quite a bit of stamina. It is great if you’re looking to burn calories quickly. However, it can prove challenging if you aren’t physically up for it.


It’s never too early or late to start on or continue with your journey towards a fitter self. There are plenty of ways for women over 40 to enjoy a good workout session both outdoors and indoors.

You’re setting yourself up for quite the task if you try to convince an ardent runner that cycling is the way to go, and vice versa. But if you are a beginner, you may still have the option to choose which path to take. Be honest with yourself about your physical stamina. Doing so will help you settle on an activity that you enjoy engaging in. Otherwise, you risk burnout.

Both running and cycling offer similar health benefits. They also help you achieve similar goals. The amount of time you spend on either one of the activities is what matters. The intensity at which you cycle or run also plays a role in how quickly you lose weight.
These two forms of exercise also share other similarities. For instance, they both improve heart health. However, the best thing about both these activities is that they can be adapted for outdoor and indoor workouts.

It’s great to run free and cycle outdoors, but it isn’t feasible for everyone. The reasons for this are plenty – lack of outdoor space in and around your neighborhood, lousy weather, or your personal preference to workout indoors. Thankfully, there are gym equipment designed to offer the same experiences as running and cycling outdoors.

The differences between these two activities (that we have discussed so far) are not major. The only slightly ‘big’ difference between the two is the expected costs. Cyclists require a cycle, protective cycling gear, and other small knick-knacks. The cost of the cycle will again depend on its model.

On the other hand, running requires a pair of sneakers and a water bottle. However, if you prefer working out indoors, you will need a gym membership or gym equipment for your home. In which case, the cost for both activities can be on the same level.

At the end of the day, both running and cycling are two of the most effective ways to get a good cardio workout. It all comes down to which activity you enjoy more and are more physically adapted for.

If you’re looking for something to blow steam off, kickboxing is an exciting way to do so. It not only helps get aggression out, but is also an excellent fat-burning exercise. Kickboxing also helps tighten and tone the muscles in your legs, butt, arms, and abs.

Exercising can seem challenging and impractical as we get older. But that is far from the truth. Exercising regularly has a ton of benefits. It helps lower the risk of diseases, it strengthens your physique, and it improves your mental health. Some experts even claim that exercising helps improve your memory.

Figuring out which exercise form you enjoy is a journey on its own – one that will hopefully be pleasant and exciting for you. Go ahead and discover the many ways you can lead a physically active and fit lifestyle.

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Chief Editor
Tonya McIntosh

Hello there! My name is Tonya McIntosh, and I’m the Founder and Chief Editor of TGFFitness. I’m also a NASM-certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. With eight years of experience under my belt, I’ve found that one of the most common issues my clients struggle with is remaining consistent.

Finding your main motivator to keep going is easier said than done for Keep Reading.

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