Cycling Vs Running – How do they compare?

 So, either of these activities will have you sweating buckets, but if you are looking for getting fit, gain muscle or shed off some pounds, which is the best option? Is cycling better than running? Will cycling allow you to burn fat faster, or will running do the trick?

Over the years, I have had countless cycling vs. running debates, and for the longest time, I was on the fence. But it turns out that when you look at the facts and throw in some science, you no longer have to struggle with weighing in your opinions. So, whether you prefer sticking to the morning runs or the two-wheelers, this article will help you make the right choice with regards to your goals.

To help you determine the camp that would work best for you, we’ll look at the benefits and the efficiency of each sport. In any case, both activities are aerobic exercises that take place outdoors, on nature trails, or on the streets.

Cycling vs Running

Generally, running would result in the burning of more calories compared to cycling, but there is a catch, running is a high-impact exercise that’s hard on your joints and muscles. Cycling is, on the other hand, a low-impact exercise that is great when it comes to muscle building, although it burns fewer calories.

To help you decide which of the two is the ideal workout sport to help you attain your goals, we’ll compare cycling and running, with regards to fitness, calories burned, muscle building, cardiovascular health, abs, and your stamina.

Cycling vs Running Comparison Table

Calories Burned
Muscle Building
Heart Health
Stamina & Endurance
Better for Legs and Low risk of injury
Which is more tiring
Higher VO2 Max


Cycling Vs. Running: Fitness

If you are wondering whether cycling or running will help you grow fit fast, you need to first understand how the two sports work, with respect to fitness level.

When it comes to cycling, this sport requires and gives you an immense amount of power. It is a low-impact exercise, which means that you would be able to keep going for much longer, which means a better chance at stamina-building and fitness.

Running, on the other hand, is a high-impact aerobic exercise that hurts, which means that you won’t be able to stick with it for a long time. It hurts, and the ugly bit about running is that it leaves your muscles sore and causes significant muscle damage. With that, you won’t be able to stick to it for too long, hence a lower chance of fast fitness.

It’s also worth noting that with the weight-bearing effects of running, there is a significantly higher risk of injury. In a study of long-distance runners and cyclists, it was noted that the runners suffered a 133 to a 144% risk of muscle damage, as well as a 256% higher risk of inflammation, and an 87% risk of DOMS. On the other hand, these risks are lower.

Therefore, between running and cycling, cycling will help you reach your fitness goals sooner. Keep in mind, however, that you will not be 100% fit through cycling alone becausecycling doesn’t increase your bone density, and you will have to throw in a bit of strength training

Cycling Vs. Running: Calories Burned

While the total number of calories burned will depend on the amount of time spent exercising and the intensity of your workouts, as well as your gender, age, and weight.

Running generally burns more calories than cycling. The reason for this is that running involves many more muscles, while cycling is a lot gentler on your body, and it won’t recruit as many muscles. You burn more calories cycling or running uphill, though.

In this article published by Men’s Health, you only burn 97 calories if you cycle for 10 minutes, but running on the treadmill for only 14.2 minutes would burn as much as 200 calories. And you’d have to cycle for 22 minutes to burn the 200 calories.

Running outdoors is also just as efficient, and you would be able to burn off as much as 100 calories per mile, meaning that you can burn at least 500 calories on a 5-mile run.  And you can burn about 12.2 calories every minute on a 10-minute mile run.

If, on the other hand, you wish to burn some calories while strengthening your legs, cycling would be good for you. Cycling might also be a good option for you if you need to lose weight, and you can burn anything between 400 and 1000 calories per hour.

Cycling Vs. Running: Cardio

Cycling Vs. Running

Looking at the effects of running and cycling on cardio or your cardiovascular health, it’s paramount to first note that either of these aerobic exercises would be effective in strengthening your heart health, allowing you to pump more oxygen to the blood because of the rise in your breathing and heartbeat rates. Whether you are running or cycling, you are teaching your heart to pump more blood, which means increased efficiency of your heart function with time.

From the exertion on your lungs, as you run, running has more beneficial effects on your cardiovascular health compared to cycling.

Now, both exercises are completely capable of enhancing or maintaining your cardio, but to determine which of the two is more effective in enhancing your cardio, a look at your BPM is important. And the exercise that results in a higher BPM (the number of heartbeats recorded per minute) would be a winner in this category. But first, you need to take into consideration the fact that your age and environment affect your bpm.

Studies by Harvard Health indicate that running is a more efficient cardio exercise than cycling, with participants aged 30 years recording a bpm or between 95 and 133 on moderate cycling, against a bpm of 190 when running.

So, between cycling and running, running is more effective in enhancing your cardio health.

Cycling Vs. Running: Muscles

Cycling is the clear and obvious winner in this category, first because it targets more muscles, and secondly because it’s a low impact exercise.

Cycling drives and activates a number of muscles, and it uses the power of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, hence faster bulking around the legs. Cycling will also target and work your calves and abs, which is why it’s the ideal exercise for muscle strengthening.

But don’t forget to work your upper body too, unless you don’t mind that stick-drawing look!

Cycling helps you build muscle through the resistance in the pedaling process, and since muscle is leaner than body fat, you can burn more calories cycling if you have a high muscle to body fat ratio.

Running will not, on the other hand, help you bulk up, regardless of the intensity of the runs, and even with uphill runs. It only adds strain to your body.

It’s also important to keep in keep in mind that unlike running, cycling is also much easier to maintain because you can cycle for fun without worrying about extreme soreness after, which is why cycling has pros cycling at least 60 miles a day, while the Tour De France champions can cycle up to 100 miles in a day.

And with the low-impact state of cycling and the lower risk of injury to the muscle and joints, you’d be able to build muscle faster. Running doesn’t engage the muscles the same way cycling does, but it will strengthen those bones from the impact of hitting the ground.

So, in as much as these two exercises work on strengthening most of the same muscle groups, cycling works more muscles compared to running, and cycling wins the contest in this category. It builds and tones muscles.

For a muscle toning throughout the body, however, slow running would do the trick because it works your entire body.

Now, if you are keen on building muscle, you need to know that neither running norcycling will enhance your muscle-building capacity on its own, and you need to put in strength training exercises for the muscle gains you seek.

Both exercises will, however, have some effects on your muscle. Sprinting, for example, boosts the levels of Growth Hormones (GH) and the Insulin-like growth factor (IGF), two hormones that are crucial for muscle building.

Cycling will, however, increase your muscle endurance.

Cycling Vs. Running: Abs

While we’ve established that running is more effective in the muscle building as it works the gluteal muscles, calves, quads, and hamstrings, it’s not the most effective exercise if you wish to grow abs.

Running is more effective when it comes to building abs because runners depend on abs during running. You need abs to maintain an upright posture when running. Cycling, on the other hand, uses more of your back, as well as the support of the bike.

With calorie-burning an important part in the development of abs, running wins this contest because it is one of the best fat-burning exercises. With consistent running, your abs will become more noticeable in less time.

To gain the same benefits from running, you’d have to take up bigger cycling challenges, throw in upper body strength training exercises, and take up more uphill cycling adventures.

So, running wins here

Cycling vs. Running: Heart health

According to the American Heart Association, both aerobic exercises are effective in enhancing heart health, with cardio exercises known for their effectiveness in lowering the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure, while also enhancing your weight loss efforts.

Between the two exercises, running has the edge over cycling, with a report by Harvard Medical School supporting these efforts because the heart works harder during runs.

Cycling vs. Running: Stamina and Endurance

Cycling Vs. Running

You need stamina and endurance for all exercises, and to achieve your goals, you’d need a high level of endurance and stamina. But stamina and endurance can only be built from exercise and running, or cycling would be effective in building that high level of stamina.

Both cycling and running are effective in building muscle strength and endurance, but cycling is more effective than running because you can go at it for a significantly longer time because it’s a low impact exercise that’s easily sustained.

Running might help build endurance, but you cannot maintain it because it’s a high impact exercise that would cause significant damage to the muscles and the joints. Running is, however, a good option for building bone density and strength, and it might be all you need to lower your risk of osteoporosis.

So which is better in building endurance and stamina? Think of how long one can run for compared to the time one can spend on the bike… cycling is easier to stick to in the long run. In other words, it would be easier to ride to work than it would be to run to and from work each day.


Cyclist Vs. Runner’s Legs – Which Is Better For Your Legs?

Cycling works the Lower half of the body, with the resistance from pedaling strengthening the legs.

Running also works the legs and the rest of the body and enhances your legs strength by also strengthening the bones.

But with the high risk of injury associated with running, and if you want to avoid crutches, then cycling is a preferable exercise for the legs.

Some of the risks that come with running include stress fractures, shin splints, and constant knee pain. So, it would be a great idea to listen to your body from the start.

Why Is Running More Tiring Than Cycling?

You use more energy when running because running involves the use of a large percentage of body muscles, with friction from hitting the ground, and the continuous pounding using a lot of energy.

The movement of the body from running, and the movement of the hands in alternative directions, and in different speeds expend a lot of energy, making the sport tiring.

Running is weight-bearing, and it involves eccentric muscle contraction and lengthening, hence harder on the body.

Cycling Vs. Running: VO2 Max

Running increases the volume of oxygen delivered to blood and also increases cardiac output. Running creates a higher VO2 Max.

VO2 max is the maximum oxygen that the body can utilize effectively during an intense exercise, and it represents the amount of oxygenated blood that your heart has the capacity to pump; and also the amount of oxygenated blood that your muscles can extract and use.

Exerting exercises result in a higher VO2 MAX, and running is one such exercise.

Between running and cycling, running is a high-intensity exercise with higher oxygen consumption.

VO2 Max is higher in running than cycling.

Why Do Cyclists Hate Running?

Well, hate is a strong word. Let’s say that running is not an option for most cyclists because of the high-impact of running and the high risk of injury.

What Are The Cons of Bikes and Cycling?

The only big disadvantage of bike riding is a costly exercise, and you need to buy a bike and biking gear.  The best bikes are quite pricey, and not everyone can afford them.


So, is cycling better than running? Should you stick to one exercise and leave out the other?

Well, the jury is still out on which is better than the other, it would be a good idea for you to pick one over the other based on your preferences. I might not be much into running because I dislike the high-impact and the exertion, but prefer cycling because I can ride for hours on end. And you, on the other hand, may prefer running because of the high you get and how easy it is to lose fat.

Whether you opt for cycling or running, you will get the cardio workout you desire. And with the same amount of effort in either exercise, you will be able to gain the same amount of endurance and stamina – all you need to do is to attain the same level of VO2 MAX.

Running and cycling are both effective in fat burning if you work hard enough.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, running will burn between 566 and 839 calories in an hour while cycling at a high pace will result in burning of between 498 and 738 calories.

For the best results in either exercise, you need to choose what works for you, and also start slow. You need to build your endurance plus your stride slowly but gradually. Overdoing either sport when you are starting out will hurt your motivation, and you might hate it in the end. Your progress will eventually pay off.