If you need to keep your weight in check, treadmills and bikes are excellent exercise tools. They both provide cardiovascular training, improving heart and lung function. However, no exercise can help you shed pounds unless you choose the right foods. Diet impacts weight loss more than working out does, so while you plan your workouts, plan to ditch the cheeseburgers and fries from your diet and munch on fruits, veggies and other whole, lean foods instead.
Weight loss is all about expending more calories than you eat, and the level of calorie burning possible on the treadmill varies greatly. At a moderate walk of 3.5 mph, a 155-pound woman burns roughly 150 calories in 30 minutes. At 4.5 mph, she burns 185 calories in the same amount of time. Higher speeds really ramp up calorie use. At 5 mph, that same woman burns about 300 calories in 30 minutes, and at 7.5 mph she shreds an impressive 465 calories. For reference, a pound of fat is 3,500 calories, so it takes that much of a calorie deficit to drop a single pound.
As with the treadmill, calorie burning on the bike depends on speed. And on the stationary bike, numbers also vary according to resistance settings. Riding at a moderate level and speed for 30 minutes, a 155-pound person burns about 260 calories on a stationary bicycle, which is significantly more than walking on a treadmill at 3.5 mph. At a vigorous speed, she burns about 390 calories in that same amount of time. On a street bike, the same woman burns about 300 calories in 30 minutes riding at a rate of 12 to 14 mph and burns nearly 450 calories riding at 16 to 19 mph. So, in terms of calorie loss, the bike is better than walking on the treadmill; however, calorie loss from running on the treadmill is about as effective as biking.
When deciding between a treadmill or bicycle, there are other factors to take into consideration besides the amount of calorie loss. Walking or running on the treadmill can be hard on the joints, but pedaling is softer on your knees and ankles. If variety is a priority, however, the treadmill may be your best bet: You can change the incline and speed, walk backward or sideways and incorporate moves such as walking lunges. On a bike, your feet and legs are limited by the pedals and you have to be able to balance yourself well if you are riding a street bicycle.
For optimal weight control, do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate biking or treadmill walking per week. Alternatively, do 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous biking or treadmill running weekly. Do two to three strength-training sessions weekly. Some options include lifting weights or performing crunches, pushups or other body-weight moves.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- MayoClinic.com: Elliptical Machines: Better Than Treadmills?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.