Home > Knowledge > Fitness and Training > Cycling Vs. Running – The Big Showdown

Cycling Vs. Running – The Big Showdown

Updated on:

> Bike Push is supported by our readers, we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you. Read more here
> Our review guidelines

Biking vs. Running. Which is better?

Dun Dun Duuun!

It’s a hot topic in the world of exercise. And let’s be honest – it may never be a settled argument.

Cycling and running are efficient ways to get into a cardio routine, but they both have benefits and drawbacks. To find out whether you should get into biking or running, let’s narrow this down into categories….

Cycling vs Running infographicPin

1: Calorie Burning

Man standing on a digital weighing scalePin

Both cycling and running are great cardio, which means you’ll burn off a significant number of calories doing either exercise, especially during more prolonged and more intense training periods. However, over the same amount of time and intensity, running burns more calories overall. While cycling works only the muscles in the legs, running also works the core and arms.

However, running is a much higher impact exercise and can be harder on your body than cycling is. This means that you may be able to get a longer or more intense workout with cycling, leading to more calorie burn.

The table below shows the expected number of calories a male weighing 154 pounds would burn during soft and hard durations of both cycling and running.

Read more: What to eat before a bike ride

table showing calories burned off either riding a bike or runningPin

Winner: Running

Running typically burns more calories than biking does if you’re training for the same amount of time or with the same intensity. Overall, running is the winner for calorie burning, but keep in mind that running is a higher impact exercise and strain your body if you aren’t running with proper form.

2: Cardiovascular Health

Female cyclist riding road bike on summers dayPin

A 2017 study released by The BMJ showed that cycling significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also generally lengthened the participants’ lifespans overall. Running also improves cardiovascular health, as it is another exercise that gets your heart rate up and enhances your endurance. Still, cycling’s long-term effects on cardiovascular health have been tested and proven.

Although both exercises are good for cardiovascular health, studies have cited that excessive amounts of vigorous exercise can be damaging to your cardiovascular health. In between workouts, especially high-intensity sessions, you’ll need to give your body a break to ensure you aren’t doing more harm than good. Keep your intense workouts to 60 minutes or less a day, and you will reap the benefits.

Winner: Cycling

Although both exercises are good for your cardiovascular health, cycling has been proven to have long-term benefits on your health and lower your risk of illnesses and mortality. If you are looking to begin regular cardio for health purposes, cycling is a sustainable and effective exercise to choose from.

3: Bone Health

Woman wearing orange and gray shoes running on stairsPin

We don’t often think of our bones when considering the effect of our workouts, but improved bone health is one of the many benefits of exercise. Running and cycling are proven to have very different effects on bone health, due to the high-intensity nature of running compared to cycling.

Studies cite cycling as helpful for joint health, reducing symptoms of arthritis and joint pain, but overall cycling has been proven to have little to no effect on bone health. Running, on the other hand, has an advantage. Hitting the ground with higher impact signals to the bone tissue to alert the pancreas to meet the bone tissue’s metabolic needs, strengthening the bones.

Cycling is a lower impact activity with a lower weight and therefore does not alert the pancreas to strengthen the bone tissue. Although it is uncertain whether or not cycling harms bone health, running certainly has a more positive one.

Winner: Running

If you’re hoping to pick up a workout that will help keep your bones strong, running or jogging is the way to go. No matter the speed or distance, the sheer pressure from your workout will help strengthen your bones.

4: Risk of Injury

Young runner at the side of the road with leg injuryPin

With any exercise, especially intense and vigorous workouts, you run the risk of injury. Both cycling and running can be quite dangerous, and injuries can happen in several ways, whether it be from bike accidents or falls while jogging. However, overall, cycling is a lower impact exercise than running is and will ultimately be less harsh on your body.

Running may burn more calories, but it is much harder on your joints than cycling is. While running, your body collides with the ground every second. This can cause foot injuries, leg injuries (particularly in the thighs), shin splints, pelvic injuries, and even back problems. Not only are these injuries bad for your long-term health, but they can prevent you from getting back into running for weeks until they’ve completely healed.

Cycling injuries and pain from cycling do happen, but they are far less frequent or common than injuries and bodily damage from running. Overall, runners suffer from more muscle damage and soreness than cyclists do.

Winner: Cycling

Cycling is the lower-risk exercise between the two. If you have any pre-existing conditions or injuries that running might exacerbate, cycling is a much better bet for your body’s long-term health.

5: Muscle Building

Male cyclist biking along sandy roadPin

Both jogging and cycling work your muscles when training, but cardio exercises are something to be cautious of when trying to build muscle. Although cardio is great for your heart health and weight loss, too much cardio can result in muscle loss as well, which is not ideal if you are training to build muscle.

Which is better for muscle building, then? Studies show that running is likely to have a more significant recovery time than cycling, affecting your ability to continue your resistance training. Cycling’s low-impact nature allows you to spend more time in the gym building muscle.

Additionally, cycling works all of the major muscle groups and particularly strengthens the muscles in the legs, including the quadriceps and the hamstrings. This makes cycling a good companion to weight training for muscle building since it will keep you lean and slim while working out the legs simultaneously.

Winner: Cycling

Although both biking and cycling work certain muscles, cycling’s low-impact nature works out all of your major muscle groups despite only needing a short recovery period. This allows you to get back into the gym and continue weight training.

6: Cost

No sport is truly free, because you’ll always need some form of equipment. But when it comes to the expense of running versus cycling, it’s clear which one is pricier.

Running is relatively low-cost: all you need is a good pair of running shoes. Generally, you’ll need to repair your running shoes every 450 to 550 miles, which is about three to six months, depending on how often you’re running.

Other than that, you can run pretty much anywhere, whether it be on a track or in the city. Plus, you don’t need any additional equipment to run. It’s also an exercise that you can continue when you’re traveling as long as you bring your shoes.

Cycling is a more expensive sport: you need a bike, and a high-quality one at that, if you plan to commute or cycle for recreation regularly. That up-front cost can be significant, but you’ll also need to maintain your bike to keep it operating safely.

Read more: Budget road bikes

Of course, if you ride rather than commute via car, you might be saving in other ways that help balance out the investment in a shiny new bike. Then again, there are some costs involved if you want to cycle while away from home, whether you rent a bike or pack yours along.

Winner: Running

No matter which way you slice it, running is cheaper than biking.

7: Weight Loss

The only way to lose weight is by being in a caloric deficit. That being said, calories are an essential factor in a weight loss journey, but simply burning the most calories during a session is not the most sustainable way to continue losing weight over a long period.

Although running generally burns more calories a session, cycling is a lower impact sport, allowing your body to exercise for longer without needing as much time to rest and recover in between workouts. This means that you can engage in more frequent, longer workouts over a longer time.

Ultimately, this makes weight loss achievable and sustainable, meaning you can keep the weight off your body. 80% of dieters cannot keep the lost weight off for the long term after completing their diet, but having an exercise regimen that you can continue for an extended period will help tremendously.

Winner: Cycling

Running is a quicker calorie-burner than cycling, but sustainable weight loss requires sustainable exercise. Cycling is a better option for taking the weight off gradually and keeping it off over time.

8: Accessibility

Woman running on treadmill in gymPin

When starting a regular workout routine, you’re going to want to be able to work out as often as possible to see significant progress and results. Although you can participate in both running and cycling both outdoors or in a gym, other elements affect how accessible they are.

Most gyms have both bicycles and treadmills, but typically gyms are equipped with many more treadmills than bicycles, making it easier to pop into the gym at any hour and find a free machine. Additionally, it can be hard to know where to begin on a stationary bike, and if you’d prefer a group or class setting, cycling classes can cost a pretty penny.

For outdoor workouts, you can run pretty much anywhere. In contrast, cycling requires bike paths or trails to get an ample and efficient workout in. This makes biking more difficult to do on a day-to-day basis unless you live near a cycling location and don’t have to worry about the travel time.

Winner: Running

Running and jogging require, at minimum, a good pair of running shoes. With cycling, not only do you need a bicycle but it is much more difficult to find a location.

9: Mental Health

Exercise is proven to positively affect one’s mental health. Working out, especially aerobic workouts like cycling and running, releases endorphins in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety and depression. Whether running or cycling, the mental health boost is a big plus of exercise.

However, falling only behind team sports, cycling is the second most effective type of exercise for boosting mental health. Running, on the other hand, came in at fourth on the list. Cycling is an enjoyable, fun, low-impact exercise that can feel less strenuous than running while still providing all of the cardiovascular benefits, so it makes sense that it would provide more mental health benefits than running.

Fortunately, it can be inferred that team sports come in first on the list because of the social element of exercising with a group of people. The mental health boost you get from either cycling or running can be increased simply by exercising with others!

Winner: Cycling

Although any exercise is beneficial for one’s mental health and even self-esteem, cycling is proven to have a greater effect overall when compared to running. Hop on a bike and feel the endorphins fly!

10: Stamina

Running, cycling and all aerobic sports are great for building endurance. If your goal is to have more energy and stamina throughout the day, either exercise is great for training. With both running and cycling, you’ll be able to increase the speed and intensity of your workouts if you’re exercising regularly.

However, since cycling is a lower impact sport than running is, you will be able to exercise more regularly and consistently. This sustained stamina training is better for increasing endurance than only being able to push out an intense workout every so often.

Additionally, because you are less likely to be injured biking, you have a higher chance of being able to continue cycling for years on end. Therefore, your stamina and endurance training will continue long into your life. Biking in your elderly years comes with lots of health benefits as well!

Winner: Cycling

Both jogging and biking are great for building endurance, which is even beneficial in daily life, but taking up cycling will allow you to maintain your energy throughout your life.

11: Enjoyment

The most important part of maintaining a workout routine is that you enjoy it. If you aren’t having fun exercising, you aren’t going to want to keep doing it for the long term. Routinely exercising is the only way to sustainably lose weight and keep the weight off, so you should enjoy it!

Some people find that running helps clear their mind and reduce anxiety. Others find it too strenuous on their bodies and love the thrill and scenery that comes from riding a bike. It is important to pick the one that you find the most fun, otherwise, you won’t want to stick with it for long enough to see results!

Winner: Tie!

Depending on your personal preferences, you may prefer one exercise over the other. Try them both and stick with the one you enjoy!

So Which Is Best? Biking Or Running?

And the overall winner is… biking! (Cycling 6 – Running 4)

Biking beats out running in more categories overall. We are a cycling website, so we’re sure you didn’t really think we’d say running was best, did you? ?

No hate towards the runners out there. We’re just a little bias towards two wheels, that’s all. Running is a great form of exercise too. Particularly if you’re short on time.

Hehe. We hope you understand! 😛 Did you enjoy our biking vs. running list? We hope you did! The tips in this list should help you pick the exercise that is the best for your personal fitness goals. No matter which one you choose, your physical and mental health will reap the benefits!

Mark Whitley
Mark Whitley
I’m Mark, a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

2 thoughts on “Cycling Vs. Running – The Big Showdown”

  1. Great article. I’m a huge proponent of biking over running due to arthritic knees. Biking seems to make my knees feel better. I will ride for an hour plus at a good speed with no pain. But I feel the knee pain if I jog to the mailbox! Many articles I read do not include much information on the long-term effect on the knees. I’m shocked that more people don’t see this as a huge benefit of biking over jogging.

    • Each to their own I say! I much prefer cycling myself. Be careful with your knees when riding a bike too. It’s possible that riding the wrong bike and/or not being set up properly can cause knee pain down the line.


Leave a Comment