When you're ready to shed excess pounds, you want to choose activities that will give you the most bang for your buck. Running and biking are both aerobic activities that will engage your large muscle groups, strengthen muscles and burn calories for weight loss. There are significant differences between these activities that you should be aware of when designing a weight-loss program.
When it comes to weight loss, the number of calories you eat compared to the number you burn makes all the difference. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so if you burn 500 calories a day with running or biking, assuming you don't eat more to make up for it, you can lose up to 1 pound of fat each week. A healthy rate of weight loss is no more than 2 pounds a week. Anything faster than this could see you losing muscle or water weight or, worse, making your body's metabolism slow down in protest.
Running engages your entire body from head to toe while also strengthening your cardiovascular endurance. MayoClinic.com says a 160-pound person burns about 606 calories per hour running at 5 mph or 861 mph when that same person runs at 8 mph. If you are a new runner, you might not be able to run for long periods of time at first and you may need to build up to longer runs, which could hinder how quickly you lose weight. Also, running is a high-impact activity and is physically demanding on your joints.
Riding a bike for weight loss is a great aerobic option if the idea of running sounds miserable to you. Biking is a low-impact activity that can be done inside on a stationary bike or outside with your own equipment. ACE Fitness says that a 160-pound person can burn 7.3 calories a minute cycling at a rate of 10 mph, or 438 calories in 60 minutes.
When designing your weight-loss plan, you have to consider your personal preferences, physical limitations, access to equipment or running paths, and your level of fitness. Although running appears to burn more calories per workout for more weight loss, it depends on your intensity and the duration of activity. For example, if you can bike for an hour and a half at 10 mph but can only jog at a slow pace for 10 to 15 minutes, you are going to burn more calories biking. Consider alternating the style of aerobic activity you complete and varying your intensity. Overall, you are going to work harder and be more motivated to engage in the activity you like the best.
Ashley Farley has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. She is also a writer specializing in healthy living, fitness and nutrition topics. Farley has an Associate of Science in mental health services from the Community College of the Air Force and is pursuing her B.A. in English at Wright State University.