This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.
It’s no secret that cycling brings a whole range of physical and mental health benefits. It is a low-impact exercise that can help you lose weight, build muscle, and improve heart health and mental wellbeing. Plus, it’s an environmentally-friendly mode of transport that can brighten your commute.
A commute by bike clears the mind after a long day of work, gets your body moving through low-impact exercise, and feeds your soul as you feel the wind in your hair. A weekend cycling adventure can provide an excellent workout and a sense of adventure, as you explore urban cycle paths or countryside tracks.
But how good is cycling for weight loss, and how often do you need to cycle to achieve your health and fitness goals?
Discerning Cyclist is on YouTube
Can You Lose Weight by Cycling?
Cycling is a great exercise for weight loss. It provides a cardiovascular workout that burns calories and fat, improves your heart and lung health, and builds muscle. It’s particularly effective when incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and routine, including a balanced diet, and regular exercise.
Like any weight loss program, you must ensure a calorie deficit to effectively lose weight through cycling. This means you need to burn more calories than you are consuming.
There are a number of smartphone apps which help you to track the calories you are eating and drinking, and a cycling calories calculator can help you work out how many calories you’ve burned (and how much weight you’ve lost) on your bike ride.
It is also important to track your progress: a weight loss journey is never linear, and there are many factors including water retention, inflammation, the menstrual cycle and hydration levels which can make the number on the scales fluctuate.
Ultimately, if you are living a generally healthy lifestyle, burning more calories than you’re taking in, and incorporating cycling into your regular routine (for example, your commute) you absolutely can lose weight by cycling.
How Often Should I Cycle to Lose Weight?
According to Livestrong, most people should cycle for at least five hours per week to lose weight. This may sound like a lot, but it’s easily achievable, especially if you can commute to work by bike. For example, a 30 minute commute to and from work, five days a week, will hit your cycling target.
According to Harvard University, cycling at a moderate pace will cause a 70kg person to burn just under 300 calories in 30 minutes. Depending on your weight, cycling for an hour a day, five days a week, could burn 3,000 calories in a week.
You can increase your calorie burn by upping the intensity of your workouts or by cycling for longer, but remember to fuel properly with protein- and nutrient-rich foods for tougher rides or you could start to burn out.
What Will Cycling 1 Hour Per Day Do to Your Body?
Cycling for one hour per day is the optimum way to lose weight by cycling. You will burn body fat, build muscle, improve your heart and lung health and help your body to release feel-good endorphins that will boost your mental wellbeing.
Building cycling into your routine by riding for one hour per day will also make it easier for you to keep up the habit, and turn cycling into a sustainable way to keep fit – as well as keeping off the fat that you lose.
Cycling for one hour a day, five days a week (for example as part of your daily commute) will burn approximately 3,000 calories per week while building and toning muscle, contributing to a leaner body shape overall.
You may be concerned about the rumoured negative effects of cycling, for example that it can lead to heart attack, knee injuries or even lowered sperm count. You can read more about the many cycling myths here, but it may be reassuring to learn that cycling is considered a low-impact exercise that is actually good for your joints, that it is amazing for your heart health, and that your little swimmers are safe – cycling can actually increase your sperm count and improve your general reproductive health.
Where Will Cycling Cause Weight Loss?
While cycling regularly will lead to fat loss all over the body, it is particularly effective for targeting the lower body. Pedalling uses the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, and you may also see benefits to your abdominal muscles as building core strength keeps you steady and stable.
You are likely to see the most muscle toning in your legs, particularly your glutes (rear end), thighs and calves. These are the muscles that provide power throughout each pedal stroke, and you can target specific muscles by incorporating interval training – working at different intensities throughout your ride – and hill training into your rides.
Naturally, you are also likely to see weight loss around the stomach with regular aerobic exercise like cycling. While cycling does not specifically target the stomach, good core strength is required for balance and stability in the saddle, so you may see some strengthening of the abdominal muscles through regular cycling – just don’t expect rock-hard abs without some supplementary core exercises.