Cycling (Biking or Bicycling)

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How many calories do I burn when I bike?

You can burn as many as 750 to 1,000 calories per hour if the biking is hard and continuous. Most people don't work that hard, and so 500-600 calories is more likely. But your calorie expenditure will vary greatly depending on whether you're on a stationary or outdoor bike, how hard you work, how efficient your bike is, and other factors. In comparison to running, biking burns about 25% fewer calories if you equal out the workload. However, as I said, your calorie expenditure while biking is going to vary, and it's entirely possible to burn more calories on a bike than running in the same period of time.

Why should I bike?

10 reasons to bike:

  1. It's an inexpensive form of transportation...no taxes, no fuel, no insurance, no tolls, no parking fees.
  2. A bike lasts for years, if not decades (have a dusty bike sitting in your garage?).
  3. It's easy to find parking.
  4. It beats sitting in traffic.
  5. It's an activity you can do with the entire family.
  6. It's good for the environment!
  7. It's a great way to get around and see new things.
  8. It's good for you. In the Shanghai Women's Health Study, more than 67,000 women were followed from 1997 to 2004 to investigate the relationship between their exercise and bike-riding habits and their risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It was found that both regular exercise and cycling for transportation were independently associated with a reduction of mortality compared with inactive individuals.

    In a similar study of 6,954 men and women who spent an average of three hours per week cycling to work, the risk of dying prematurely was reduced by 28%, even if they didn't do any other exercise. In terms of diabetes and insulin resistance, 24 patients with diabetes (average age 45 years old) who biked for 45 minutes three times a week for eight weeks improved their insulin sensitivity by 46%, decreased their visceral fat by 48% (visceral fat is the unhealthy fat located deep in your belly that surrounds and infiltrates the organs and is associated with heart disease and diabetes), and increased their oxygen consumption (the measure of aerobic fitness) by 41%!
  9. It's easy to do, and you can do it for a lifetime.
  10. It's fun!

Whether you're riding around town for errands, commuting to work, working out for exercise, or simply enjoying the sensation of moving under your own pedal power, biking is the right activity for so many reasons. If you haven't been riding, now might be just the right the time to give it a try!

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2015

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