Biking

How It Works

Biking is a top-notch cardio workout. You’ll burn about 400 calories an hour. Plus it strengthens your lower body, including your legs, hips, and glutes.

If you want a workout that’s gentle on your back, hips, knees, and ankles, this is a great choice.

You can cycle on the road, a bike path, or a mountain trail. Indoors, you can do your workout on a stationary bike or buy a stand, called an indoor trainer, for your outdoor bike.

If you’re a beginner, choose a flat bike path or road. If you’re ready for a tougher workout that also engages your upper body and core, try mountain biking. It’s also called off-road biking. You can do it on trails and different types of rough terrain.

Mountain biking is trickier because you have to navigate hills and surfaces, so your upper body and core will kick into gear. It’s more of a total-body workout than biking on the road, which is mostly a lower-body cardio workout.

Plan to get on your bike and ride for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 days a week.

Start every ride with a warm-up. Pedal at a slow, easy pace for 5-10 minutes. Then boost your speed so you start to sweat. If you’re riding a stationary bike, simply change the settings for a faster pace.

When you’re ready to wrap things up, take an extra 5 minutes to cool down by cycling at a slower pace.

Intensity Level: High

Cycling gets your heart rate up almost as much as running and burns a lot of calories. It's also gentle on your body. It doesn't put a lot of stress on your joints, which helps if you’re getting into shape or have joint problems.

Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. Your core will get stronger from biking.

Arms: No. This workout doesn't specifically target your arms.

Legs: Yes. This is a great workout for your legs, especially your quads and hamstrings.

Glutes: Yes. Your glutes and hips will get a serious workout from biking.

Back: No. This workout doesn’t specifically target your back. If you want to add an upper body workout, try mountain biking. It will engage your back muscles as you navigate up and down hills.

Type

Flexibility: No. This workout doesn’t focus on flexibility.
Aerobic: Yes. Biking is a powerful cardio workout.
Strength: Yes. The large muscles of your lower body will get a boost in strength from biking.
Sport: No.
Low-Impact: Yes. This is a workout that doesn’t put stress on your joints.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: If you don’t own a bike, you may have to buy a new or used one. In some cities, you may be able to rent one.

Good for beginners? Yes. Even if you haven’t biked in years, you can get right back on again. If you’re overweight, biking is a good option because it’s not a weight-bearing activity.

Outdoors: Yes. Biking is an ideal outdoor workout.

At home: Yes.If you have a stationary bike or indoor trainer, you can cycle inside your home.

Equipment required? Yes. You’ll need a bike (go to a local bike store to get fitted for the right bike size). A helmet is a must for safety. You can also try padded biking shorts, which can make your bike seat feel better. Gloves can protect your hands from rubbing the grips.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:

Biking is about as ideal as a cardio exercise gets. It provides a low-impact workout that also builds strong legs and improves heart health.

Practically anyone can do it. It’s great for beginners. And you can pump up the intensity as your fitness level improves, making it a challenging workout even for advanced exercisers. Because you have the option of outdoor biking or indoor cycling, you can bike year round.

If you want to bike outdoors but feel a bit unsteady, start with indoor cycling to help build some muscle strength to help stabilize you on a bike. Once you’re ready, take it outside but go slow at first.

Always wear a helmet when you bike outdoors. Head injuries are one of the most common biking injuries when people skip protection.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Because biking is a low-impact exercise, it’s ideal if you have arthritis in your hips, knees, and ankles or you’re recovering from a joint injury. Plus, it helps build stronger leg muscles, providing more support for your joints, which lessens pain.

If you have back problems, it’s fine to include biking in your routine, but you need to find another form of working out that strengthens your core and makes you more flexible.

Looking to drop some pounds to help manage diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even heart disease? Biking is a great addition to your cardio routine that will also make your heart stronger.

When you’re pregnant, focus on indoor cycling. A stationary bike provides stability so you don't fall. If you were an intense cyclist before getting pregnant, you should be able to continue that during your pregnancy. Check with your doctor to be sure.

WebMD Fitness A-Z Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on November 21, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Council on Exercise: “Bike + Mountains = Excitement + Challenge,” “8 Fun Calorie-burning Activities for Swimsuit Season.”

Cleveland Clinic: “What is the Best Type of Aerobic Exercise.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Getting back on the bike.”

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