It’s a cardio exercise with numerous health benefits but is cycling good for weight loss? 

Cycling is renowned for having numerous benefits: it’s green, relatively cheap compared to driving or public transport and, if you live in a congested city, is one of the quickest ways to get from A to B – just as soon as you slipped on a pair of the best cycling shorts. In addition to its transport credentials, it’s one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise around, rivalling rowing, swimming and golf for calories burned. But is cycling good for weight loss? 

The short answer is yes, but it’s multifaceted. Cycling isn’t a silver bullet or a quick fix, and any solid and sustainable weight loss strategy is built around the pillars of exercise, diet and sleep. But the humble bike can be a great tool to help you shed any excess weight, and keep it off for good. Here, we investigate how…  

Using cycling to burn calories 

Burning calories is literally as easy as riding a bike. A study from Harvard found that in just 30 minutes of moderate intensity, a 185lb (83kg) person burns 294 calories. The further or faster you go, the more you burn. Make that workout a vigorous one and you’ll burn 441 calories.  

Other forms of exercise such as running do get through more calories. That same 185lb person running 5mph for 30 minutes will burn 336 calories. But cycling has another trick up its sleeve – it’s low-impact. It’s accessible to those new or returning to exercise after a long break. And the only thing that will keep you out of the saddle is a long-standing injury.  

Aerobic and anaerobic exercise potential 

A bike isn’t just for pootling to the shops or gentle weekend spins. Increase the intensity and you’ve got yourself an anaerobic exercise machine. You can easily do that by riding up a hill or switching to the highest, hardest gear. The anaerobic energy system is the non-aerobic breakdown of the body’s carbohydrate stores and is engaged during a high-intensity interval workout. Completing regular HIIT sessions is shown to be just as effective at reducing body fat mass as more time-consuming aerobic exercise. That means you can feel the benefits in less time. A study from 2017 found that 3-4 30-minute HIIT workouts reduced body fat mass by 10% in just 12 weeks. 


Cycling’s other pro when it comes to weight loss is how simple it is to add to your schedule. That’s key to making it a sustainable and maintainable form of exercise. If you live close enough, you can commute by bike from home to work; if not, you could at least do part of the journey under your own steam.

The incidental nature of cycling also means you don’t have to find more time in your time-poor schedule to squeeze in a separate form of exercise, while it’s also a year-round activity (if you have season-appropriate clothing and equipment). And, if you don’t fancy braving the elements, any gym worth its salt will have at least one exercise bike in its cardio set-up – allowing you to complete moderate and high-intensity training rides even if the weather isn’t on your side. 

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