Ride Your Way to a Healthier Body
If you’re considering Cycling for Weight Loss, you are not alone.
Many people have biked their way to physical fitness and better-looking bodies.
Over one-third of Americans own at least one bicycle, but not everyone rides on a regular basis.
Do you have a bike that’s quietly rusting in your garage or basement?
If so, you should get it out, give it a good dusting off and get it ready to ride, especially if you’d like to get rid of some extra pounds!
Questions I’ll answer in this post:
- Why choose cycling for weight loss?
- How often you should ride to see the best results
- Things to keep in mind when cycling for weight loss
What Makes Cycling So Good for Weight Loss
Lose Weight While Cycling
Cycling helps get your metabolism and circulation working properly.
While riding a bike fat burning is in full swing as most of your lower body muscles are activated and getting exercised, strengthened, and trained.
This is better than most other types of exercise because your legs are the largest muscles in your body and your body’s powerplant!
Cycling Burns Calories
The more you exert your leg muscles, the more calories you’ll burn.
Cycling as an exercise is considered endurance training.
As such the prolonged duration of exercise you experience burns far more calories and has a hugely positive effect on your health overall!
Bicycles are Easy to Use
You’ve heard the expression “As easy as riding a bike”?
Unlike many other sports, biking can be easily integrated into your everyday life.
Maybe you can ride your bike to work, to the grocery store for light shopping, or simply around the neighborhood as a way of getting fresh air and some activity.
These are simple and effective ways to get your body moving and burn calories even in your everyday life while you enjoy the outdoors!
Tip: To be an effective exercise, you should concentrate on getting your heart rate into the aerobic target range for 30 minutes or more.
How Many Calories Can You Burn When Cycling?
There are many factors that play into this, so it’s difficult to give a simple answer to this question.
How many calories you burn while cycling depends on:
- How intensely you are riding
- How physically fit are you?
- How often do you exercise?
- What is your weight?
- How fast you ride
- Do you ride on smooth paths or off-road?
- Are you riding on flat surfaces, downhill, or uphill? (also known as Cycling Elevation Gain)
- What is the temperature outside?
- Are you riding with the wind or against the wind?
Generally speaking you can burn between 200 – 800 calories per hour by cycling, though most people will be able to burn somewhere between 450 – 750 calories per hour.
Check out this Calories Burned Biking / Cycling Calculator to get further into the details on this.
Which Muscles Do You Use When Riding a Bike?
You mainly use your leg muscles when you ride a bike.
These four main leg muscles are:
Depending on the level of resistance you’re facing, whether you’re riding up inclines, using higher gears, riding against the wind, or on rugged offroad trails, if you train hard then your legs will become very powerful over time.
Just think of the chiseled, rock-hard leg muscle of serious cyclists.
But you really don’t need to focus on developing insane strength in your legs, sometimes it’s enough to regain shape and restore fitness.
- Abdominal muscles
- Spinal Erectors – The muscles that keep your back straight
Your core muscles definitely get a great workout during cycling!
The core is used to keep your body firm and upright, and whether it be on short or long rides, you train and develop these muscles each time you ride.
Upper Body Muscles
- Arm Muscles
- Shoulder Muscles
- Upper & Lower Back Muscles
- Chest Muscles
All of your upper body muscles play a big role and get a workout when you ride a bike!
As you ride all of these muscle groups work in concert and because they work together and share a common goal, the entire body gets stronger and more limber with one exercise.
How Fast Can You Lose Weight Cycling?
Some studies have shown that cycling every day can take off as much as 5.5 pounds of body weight per month!
Though many fitness experts advise not to lose more than around 2 pounds per week.
However, if you are very overweight, or have not exercised much in the past its likely that you will experience more weight loss than this at first.
The weight will definitely come off with an exercise as effective as cycling, but you’ll probably need to be patient with your progress.
Weight loss doesn’t just come with increased physical activity, but most times people have to make some improvements to their diet to make real progress.
You should try to focus on slow, steady weight loss over time.
Give your body and mind a chance to cope with the changes it’s going through.
The more you can establish healthy habits, the more likely those habits will become a healthy lifestyle.
This will help you avoid the roller coaster that some people go through when they try to lose weight.
If you lose weight too fast, you are usually also losing quite a lot of muscle mass, and this is something you definitely want to avoid if you can.
Benefits of Losing Weight With Cycling
- Cycling is a Low-Impact Exercise: Cycling is very easy on your joints! The bike seat supports between 60 – 75% of your weight and the circular motion of pedaling is easy on your leg joints. Compare this with jogging where your hips, knees, and feet can really take a beating.
- Cardiovascular Exercise: Cycling is an endurance sport. So losing weight by cycling offers you a lot of health benefits: Your cardiovascular system is exercised, your lung volume increases, your heart muscle is strengthened and can work more effectively and your resting heart rate decreases. Your muscle coordination will also be improved. Cycling also breaks down cortisol, which is your body’s main stress hormone.
- Cycling Easily Integrates into Everyday Life: You don’t need to carve out time to fit bike riding into your daily routine. You can easily hop on your bike to go to the store, pick the kids up from school or take a ride through the park instead of a walk. Not only that, when you ride your bicycle instead of driving your car you are doing something good for the environment!
Any Disadvantages of Cycling for Weight Loss?
There are very few drawbacks to cycling as a way to lose weight.
Not sure they are disadvantages, but you have to ride relatively long distances or pedal really hard (fast, high gears, or up hills) to burn the same amount of calories as some other exercises.
Also, all of the really hard work is done by the legs. But this is ok because your legs are great at doing hard work… they do it all the time in daily life.
Your butt can be sore when you first start riding. After an hour in the saddle, you will know what I mean.
Fortunately, your body will probably get used to this pretty quickly, and you can get a nicely padded seat to help with this.
Best Heart Rate For Weight Loss Chart
This chart breaks down the best target heart range for weight loss.
|Age||Estimated beats per minute for fat-burning|
Cycling Training Plan for Weight Loss
To put it simply, if you want to lose weight by cycling you should ride your bike as often as you can and for as long as possible.
This doesn’t mean that every ride needs to be super disciplined and involve aerobic activity.
Even short or casual rides are beneficial and will increase your physical fitness, burn calories and boost your metabolism.
But if you’re serious about getting fit and shedding pounds, then you’ll want to get out for serious, high-intensity rides as often as you can.
Beginner Cyclist Training Plan
Beginners should with three training sessions per week of 30 – 40 minutes each.
90 – 100 revolutions per minute using low to medium resistance gear.
A consistent pedal cadence is better than pedaling and resting at intervals.
After about two weeks, you can start to extend the duration of your rides.
As a rule, you should always increase the how often and how long you ride first, before increasing the intensity of your rides.
After you notice positive progress, you can consider introducing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) unit and start riding in higher resistances or more difficult conditions, such as up mountains or with a higher cadence.
Exercise Bike vs Bicycle: Which is Better For Losing Weight?
So you may wonder, is an indoor exercise bike give as effective a workout as an outdoor bicycle…
Both styles have their advantages.
And I recommend both for different reasons.
In general, I recommend outdoor cycling as you get the advantage of being out in the sun and fresh air.
Riding your bike through nature like on a bike path in the woods has obvious benefits for your mind and body.
Outdoor cycling also gives lots of variety to your ride. Just consider the wind, trail, or road conditions.
The feel of the wind on your body can also have a pleasant cooling effect on your skin, which is a big bonus when you’re pedaling hard.
Not to mention the variety of scenery you encounter on outdoor rides tends to keep your rides more interesting, while riding an exercise bike indoors can become quite boring during a long training session.
Though there are some safety concerns associated with bike riding, most bicycle riders don’t pay these concerns much mind.
When the weather doesn’t permit riding your bike outdoors, like in a rainstorm, snow, very cold weather, or just too darn hot, an indoor exercise bike is an easy and logical choice.
Indoor exercise bikes can also offer you the ability to follow along with online spin classes, online trainers, watch your favorite TV show or movie.
Another benefit of indoor exercise cycling is you can stop pedaling at any time without having to consider how far the distance is back to your home.
This can be especially helpful for beginners.
Another benefit of indoor training is you can easily track your fitness progress under controlled conditions, as you dial in your distance, time pedaled, and resistance used with a high level of accuracy.
Tips for Successful Weight Loss with Cycling
- Rest Days: Rest days are just as important as the training itself – so don’t skip rest days!
- Proper Hydration: Drinking enough water is important in any sport, but especially in cycling because some rides can be long. Don’t forget your water bottle and make sure you have a plan for where you’re going to refill your water bottle during long rides!
- Cycling Gloves: Cycling gloves are especially important for beginners. Blisters can easily form on the hands which can make for a very unpleasant riding experience
- Proper Clothing: Especially when cycling outside, it is very important to wear proper clothing for the weather.
- Bike Computer: A bike computer (aka digital bike speedometer) can make a huge difference in the enjoyment and productivity of your ride. Bike computers can give you lots of valuable data about your ride. Some of these are:
- Heart rate
- GPS maps
- Elevation gain (the total amount you have climbed on your ride)
- And more…
Motivation: I recommend listening to podcasts on Cycling to keep your motivation high. Here’s a list of some great cycling podcasts I think you’ll enjoy!
There are countless benefits to riding a bike for weight loss.
Whether you’re hitting the trails, roads, or on an exercise bike at home keep in mind the advice in this article. It’ll keep you on the right track!
If you enjoyed this article, go check out my article Cycling Training Plan For Beginners!