Is Running or Riding The Stationary Bike Better for Burning Fat?

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question-icon-newMy question is about running or jogging outdoors versus doing stationary bicycling. Is one exercise better than the other? I don’t really enjoy running or even jogging. If I force myself to run, I will usually do it outdoors because of the natural variations in the workout environment (incline hills, etc). If I ride the bicycle, I usually use a stationary bike because I have easy access to them at the gym. I prefer bicycling over running or jogging any day. I’m just wondering if you think one might be better for losing that last little bit of body fat from around my stomach.

answer-icon-newFirst, I salute you for exercising regularly. It’s often hard to find the time to get in cardiovascular exercise every day, so whichever method you choose you’re benefiting your fitness and overall health. Exercising on indoor fitness equipment, whether it’s a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or other indoor cardio equipment, come with a more monotone approach to the exercise than being outdoors. Indoor cardio is basically very predictable without variability in stability. What this means for you is that your muscles are repeating the same movement, almost exactly, every repetition. However, you can still adjust resistance and speed when doing cardio indoors.

On one hand, this can be a good thing if you have an injury and need to control the motion and muscles used, or you might want to train a specific set of muscles for skill improvement, strengthening, or expand on specific cardiovascular fitness goals (such as speed or hill training). And, the most obvious advantage is convenience and the ability to exercise consistently throughout the year.

On the other hand, outdoor exercise, such as running or cycling, involves more overall variability (speed, uneven surfaces, obstacles) that can improve your balance, ankle and knee strength, and your reaction time. However, running outdoors can be harder in terms of impact, that is if you’re running on a concrete surface like a path or sidewalk. Exercising outdoors inherently involves more risk, in terms of injury, too.

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The best of both worlds from an overall fitness standpoint would include a variation of exercises that would include indoor fitness equipment and outdoor activity. In terms of calorie burn, intensity will dictate your caloric expenditure more than the variable terrain. As a matter of fact, you are easily able to increase your intensity on the indoor exercise equipment because of the lack of variables that may slow you down outdoors, so subsequently you are not going to compromise your overall calories burned by exercising indoors. But again, for an overall fitness perspective, there are advantages to subjecting your body to unstable situations so that it can strengthen and adapt.

Something else that you are currently doing, varying the type of exercise (running and cycling), is also recommended from an overall fitness perspective because it allows more muscles to be involved, and in the long-run this will decrease your risk for injury.

To lose overall belly fat, however, an overall body fat loss perspective is the best approach. It really comes down to, at the end of the day, calories burned verses calories consumed. In order to lose weight, you can review the chart above that may help you discern how many calories you need to burn and consume to lose weight. There are slight variations in each individual’s metabolism, however, so experiment with your diet and fitness routine to find your personal weight loss formula.

A best case physical activity scenario for you would be to include 30-60 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise, both indoors and outdoors on most days of the week with the addition of full body strength training workouts 3 days a week to increase muscle mass, which then will increase your resting metabolism to aid in your overall fat loss goals. Also, you may want to vary your cardiovascular exercise intensity and include one day of intervals, and one longer cardio workout day. Finally, add some stretching to your routine to promote muscle flexibility and you’ll have a great well-rounded fitness program for life!

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About Author

Alice Burron

Alice is determined to motivate kids and adults to get fit and healthy. An M.S. graduate from the University of Wyoming in Physical Education with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology, Alice has more than 15 years of experience as a Personal Trainer. See my profile page for more information!

3 Comments

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Jo – Running will definitely burn more calories in the same amount of time (unless you’re doing high intensity spinning). If you have issues with your joints (knees, ankles) then it’s probably smart to choose the bike over running since it’s lower impact. You can still burn a lot of fat and calories riding the bike, but it will just take you longer to do it.

  1. Avatar

    In my opinion, biking is a better exercise than running and I will explain why. Whether you bike on a stationary bike or an actual bike for the streets, it’s better than running. Biking is a great cardio workout that gets tougher depending on where you bike and how fast. It’s a low impact exercise so the majority of people can do it on a regular basis. Another biking benefit is that you do not need to wear proper athletic attire when biking but proper attire will help. You can bike in long jeans with sandals and a t-shirt and get a great workout. Running is a great form of cardio exercise, but it’s very hard on your body so there is a greater risk of injury. Some people are unable to run due to knee and joint issues. It’s hard to maintain a running schedule since it’s very hard on your body and you need to rest and recover more. However, it does burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than biking. You must wear the proper running attire with quality shoes at all times to avoid risk of injury.

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