cycling vs running

Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication. Here's how we make money.

Last Updated on November 9, 2020

Both cycling and running are great exercise options, and both of them have several health benefits. They are both rhythmic aerobic exercises involving large muscle mass.

However, they have fundamental differences that can sway you to choose one form of exercise over the other. So which one is better? Here is a side-by-side comparison between these two wildly popular forms of exercises.


Burning Calories and Losing Weight

Many factors come into play regarding the number of calories you can burn while you are exercising. Some of these factors include your metabolism and the surface you are cycling or running.

Generally, you will burn more calories if you run than when you cycle. This is because, when running, you involve most of your body parts as opposed to cycling where your body is supported by the bike because you are in a sitting position. 

On average, a person burns 100 calories per mile when running and roughly 50 calories per mile when cycling (source). Therefore, running burns twice as much calories as biking. However, it’s important to understand that there’s more than one factor that actually affects how many calories you burn. 

If you want to burn more calories, you should run or cycle uphill than on a flat surface. This is because going upward usually requires more energy and effort.

Getting Fit Faster

A bike helps you to develop staying power. For example, indoor spinning is low-impact, which enables you to go for longer. Cycling is sustained stamina training.

On the other hand, running won’t give you maximum stamina quickly because of the reason that it hurts. Running leads to damage and soreness of muscles. This explains why you can cycle for much longer than you can run.

Therefore, if your main intention is to get fit faster, you are better off cycling than running.

If You Want to Build Muscle

The power you need to cycle is generated by quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This means that cycling gives you many gains in your leg bulk. It’s also advisable to work your upper body as well, as this helps you to look better in shape.

But running cannot help you bulk up. Even if you try hill training, your chances of success in muscle building are close to none. Running only spreads strain to the different parts of your body. 

Therefore, if you are looking to build muscle and you want the better option between the two, cycling is the undisputed winner. 

Heart Health

Cycling and running help to protect your heart. Doing cardiovascular exercises regularly also reduces your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes (source). At the same time, it helps you to lose weight, says the American Heart Association.

In terms of heart health, however, running is slightly better. This is because when you run, your heart works a bit harder. However, your effort and exercise intensity will determine how well your heart works. 


cycling is cheap

In terms of which exercise method is more expensive, cycling carries the day. Not only will you need to purchase a bike but you must also ensure that it’s of the right size and also of good quality.

Also, you will need to invest in protective gear, for instance, elbow and kneepads, and a helmet. Another cost factor that involves running is spinning paying for classes.

Running is significantly more affordable compared to biking. You can start running without needing any equipment. To prevent injuries however, you will need to buy a nice pair of shoes preferably manufactured from shock-absorbing materials.


Generally, you can be injured 6 times per 1000 hours. Your chances of crashing are once in 900,000 miles. You can also minimize your risk of being injured by ensuring that your legs do not fully straighten.

Compared to cycling, you will be injured 11 times per 1000 hours when you are running. According to Simon Costain, a pediatrician, your vertebral column is compressed by shockwaves. Marathoners shrink by one centimeter in the course of a race. It might be temporary but it is not good enough.

Therefore, if you want to avoid injuries, cycling is your best option.  


socialize when cycling

Both of these activities enable you to socialize. Joining a running or cycling club is the fastest way of meeting other people. In most cases, these clubs organize joint activities, which can be quite fun and enjoyable.

However, when performing high-intensity aerobic exercises, you won’t speak comfortably and not run out of breath. But, while socializing during the actual workout may not be the ideal, cycling or running clubs often set aside time for members to chat before the workout sessions and after.

If your preference is going to the gym, the treadmill, and stationary bike work in the same way as running and biking. The gym also enables you to meet people and socialize but some people may be extremely focused on working out and they wouldn’t want to be disturbed.

So Which One Is Better Overall?

There is no question that running and cycling are two of the most popular and efficient cardiovascular workouts you can perform. But when it comes to which one is better overall, only you can choose.

 When choosing between the two, you need to consider many things such as whether you have preexisting health conditions, your health goals, your budget, and the type of workout you prefer, and if you have any injuries.

Some questions to help you decide which exercise in the running vs. cycling debate include:

  • Do you want a cheaper workout? Run
  • Do you have joint or knee issues? Cycle 
  • Do you prefer sitting down while working out? Bike
  • Do you have running? Bike
  • Do you want to improve heart health? Run
  • Do you need a workout that you can perform anywhere and anytime? Run
  • Are you looking for a healthier way to commute to work? Bike

You can see that the type of exercise you choose depends on many factors. Choose one over the other based on your situation and weight loss goals.

Harold Whitford

Follow me here

About the Author

My name is Harold Whitford, a husband, father, and avid cyclist with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Delaware. Having been in the industry for more than 15 years, I have a number of the road race and national time trial championships in my bag.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}