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Cycling vs Running – What’s the Best Way to Get Fit?

runningAs an avid cycler and lover of all-things fitness, I often get asked the same question time and time again: is cycling the best way to get fit, or is running the better option? The answer isn’t as black and white as you – or I – would like. In my own experience, I’ve found benefits and drawbacks to both.

The Benefits of Cycling Over Running

When it comes to getting fit, cycling has quite a few benefits over running.

  • Faster results. Want to get fit faster? Jump on a bike. Cycling is low impact, so you can keep going for longer. But running leads to muscle fatigue and soreness quickly. I don’t know about you, but I have a much easier time cycling for six miles than I do running for six miles.
  • Muscle growth. Let’s face it – you’re not going to build muscle running. I’ve tried it – and so have countless other people. Even with hill training, the strain is spread throughout the entire body. But with cycling, all of your power is generated by your quads, hamstrings and glutes. You’re working your legs, and you’ll see gains after cycling consistently.
  • Fewer injuries. I don’t mind working hard to get fit, but not at the expensive of my health. That’s why I love cycling. The risk of injuring yourself is minimal – especially if you’re using a stationary bike. But even for avid cyclists like me, the risk is still low – as in 6 injures per 1,000 hours on average. And it’s easier on the joints. As for running? Eleven injuries per 1,000 hours is the norm.
  • It’s something you can do forever. Cycling is an activity you can do for the rest of your life – even in old age. It’s easy on the joints, the risk of injury is low and you can move as slow or as fast as you want.
  • Cycling is a mode of transportation. When you’re trying to get fit, it can be hard to squeeze in that time during the day to exercise. But if you bike to and from work or the store, you’ll get your workout in without even realizing it. Running to work is impractical – unless your boss is okay with you wearing sweaty clothes all day.

Cycling is a great way to get fit – and it’s fun too. But there are some drawbacks to consider too.

The Drawbacks

Running does have a few advantages over cycling when it comes to getting fit. Some drawbacks to consider are:

  • Fewer calories burned. If your primary goal is to burn the most calories possible, running is the obvious choice. That being said, there are many variables that affect the number of calories burned. Jogging at a light pace on flat terrain might not burn as many calories as cycling at a moderate pace uphill. The number of calories burned will depend on how much effort you put in and how challenging the terrain is. But under the same conditions and at the same pace, running generally burns more calories.
  • Running is cheap. You can buy some good running shoes and you are good to go, this is obviously not the case with cycling. Good road bikes can set you back at least $1000. However during winter months, when weather is not suitable for running or cycling there are treadmills and exercise bikes that will keep you busy. However after reading a few treadmill reviews it seems like exercise bikes are cheaper and better on the knee joints than the cheap treadmills.

Call me biased, but I think cycling is a better way to get fit than running. It’s easier on the joints, helps you build stamina and gives you a great cardiovascular workout.


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