The humble bicycle is an invention that we can’t seem to outrun. In a world of busses, trains, electric cars, and Ubers, many of us still find ourselves owning a bike. Whether we use it for recreational purposes or for neighborhood errands, the question remains — can we use that second-hand bike we bought off Craigslist to get more shredded than a bag of cheese?
More of us are finding ourselves at home behind a computer screen than ever before. The modern American adult spends 6.5 hours a day sitting, and if you work a desk job, it’s likely to be more. In order to get exercise, most hop into a car and head over to the gym, or we attempt to gain the self-motivation to work out at home. But, imagine if getting from point A to point B provided us with the daily exercise required to meet our fitness goals.
Belly fat is infamously stubborn and difficult to get rid of, so finding an effective way to defeat it has become a hot topic. To understand if cycling offers victory in the battle of the bulge, it’s important to understand the mechanism of losing weight.
It’s as simple as this: You lose weight by burning more calories than you consume through food. Any physical activity will burn energy by utilizing the calories we ingested. Say you want to ride your bike to work. You first take in a hearty breakfast, say, 1,000 calories, before hitting the streets on your pocket rocket. You start working up a sweat and as you do so, your body depletes the energy derived from the breakfast you ate. Once your body has burnt off your 1,000-calorie breakfast, it has to turn to your body for additional energy reserves to get up that cursed hill that you dread. Your body then turns to your fat reserves to complete this task — some of which is belly fat. So, riding a bike will burn belly fat if we expend more energy whilst riding the bike than the energy we gained from the day’s food. Therefore, diet is fundamentally as important in weight loss as exercise.
By this logic then, any physical activity can be used to burn off calories, right? Right! However, we are impatient and pressed for time. Taking a walk burns calories, but people run because it burns many more calories in a shorter period of time. So, the next important question becomes, how many calories are burnt through cycling compared to other forms of exercise? We turn to science and data to answer this question.
This Harvard Study looked at calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights across a massive range of exercises. The following table summarizes the data important to us, showing calories burnt in a 185-pound individual performing the activity for 30 minutes:
|Weight Lifting: General||133|
|Circuit Training: General||355|
|Aerobics: Low Impact||244|
|Running: 5pm (12min/mile)||355|
|Bicycling Stationary: Moderate||311|
|Bicycling: 12-13.9 mph||355|
|Bicycling: BMX or Mountain||377|
As you can see, bicycling does burn an impressive amount of calories compared to other common forms of exercise. Here, the type of cycling, as well as its length and intensity, becomes critical when determining the effectiveness of the exercise. What we mean by that is this — a 30-minute HIT cycling class at the gym looks very different from a leisurely 30-minute Sunday bicycle ride to the nearby grocery store on a flat road. The key here is exercise intensity and length.
Want to lose weight and get fit by riding a bike? The great news is that we’ve shown that cycling is in fact highly effective at burning calories and therefore body fat. Now it’s time to shift up a gear.
This largely depends on your age, starting weight, and fitness level. A person who cycles every day will use fewer calories for the same cycle than someone who has never cycled before because their body has adapted to this exercise. So, in terms of how many calories a person should aim to burn through each cycling session, there is no one answer. But that’s a disappointing answer, so let’s try to do better.
Many trainers, health gurus, and exercise advocates say that burning 400 to 500 calories a day through exercise is a good goal to set your sights on. In this article, certified trainer, Brooke Taylor, recommends burning 500 calories in exercise sessions five times a week. Using this rule of thumb and the data used in the Harvard study, we can determine how long it would take to reach the 500 calorie mark performing these cycling exercises.
|Cycling Type||Minutes Required to Burn 500 Calories|
|Bicycling Stationary: Moderate Intensity||48 min|
|Bicycling: 12-13.9 mph||42 min|
|Bicycling: BMX or Mountain||39 min|
There you have it! It takes approximately 45 minutes of moderately intense cycling for most adults to reach their calorie expenditure needs through cycling. Do this five times a week, and you’ll burn 2,500 calories!
Cycling can be an affordable and efficient way to get exercise and to lose weight. With the added bonus of being an environmentally friendly form of transport, bike riding to and from work or to the grocery store can be a great way to reach your daily exercise goals. If you are looking at using a bicycle as your main form of exercise, a good way to start is by riding for 45 minutes at a moderate intensity. This will burn approximately 500 calories per cycling session, setting you on track to meet average weekly exercise goals.
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