If you want to lose weight, cycling can help. In fact, it’s one of the best sports or leisure activities for burning calories (see list below).

Cycling is challenging, sociable and offers a great workout. It’s also fun, is suitable for the whole family, is for any age or level of fitness and helps weight loss as it burns calories. All of which leads to an improved level of fitness and thus improves your health and gets you out and about.

There are loads of cycle routes and mountain bike trails across the UK which leads to cycling being a more comfortable way to lose weight.

What are the Benefits of Cycling?

  • You will lose fat and burn calories by increasing heart rate
  • Cheap and pollution free, cycling burns calories, and you’ll lose weight
  • Cycling improves health
  • All round fitness, along with strength and endurance are increased as cycling exercises the major muscle groups in the legs; the quadriceps, glutei, hamstrings and calves
  • Pedal power is low impact and takes the weight of the body
  • You need no special training. Most of us can already ride a bike, and as the saying goes, once learnt you never forget how to ride a bike.

How many Calories will Cycling Burn?

Depending on your weight and exertion level, cycling burn between 280 to 840 calories per hour, unless you are at race level.

The following are the number of calories used when cycling by a person of average weight.

  • Leisure Cycling at less than 10mph .. 280 calories per hour
  • Leisure Cycling at 10-12mph .. 420 calories per hour
  • Leisure Cycling at 12-14mph .. 560 calories per hour
  • Leisure Cycling at 14-16mph .. 700 calories per hour
  • Leisure Cycling at 16-19mph .. 840 calories per hour
  • Race Cycling at more than 20mph .. 1125 calories per hour
  • Mountain Biking, average pace .. 600 calories per hour

Cycling Compared to Other Sports

  • Aerobics .. 420 calories per hour
  • Badminton .. 320 calories per hour
  • Boxing, Sparring .. 630 calories per hour
  • Football .. 500 calories per hour
  • Golf .. 280 calories per hour
  • Running at 5mph .. 560 calories per hour
  • Running at 10mph .. 1125 calories per hour
  • Swimming, Gentle .. 560 calories per hour
  • Swimming, Fast .. 700 calories per hour
  • Squash .. 840 calories per hour
  • Walking .. 250 calories per hour

How will Cycling Improve my Health?

  • When cycling for health, exercise can be maintained for a long period of time without your leg muscles getting too tired. However, when cycling for fitness, you should feel the burn! Your heart and lungs get a solid workout which is excellent for improving your cardiovascular fitness levels.
  • As your heart and lungs get stronger you will be able to more efficiently transport oxygen around the body which is the key to a high level of fitness. Your resting pulse rate will decrease as will your blood fat levels and blood pressure. All of these combined will reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Cycling for 30 minutes just 2-3 times a week will help with all other aerobic exercises too and reduce the chances of you having to stop your activity to get your breath back, and again improve your weight loss.

Here’s an interesting statistic, if one third of all short car journeys were made by bike, national heart disease rates would fall by between 5-10 percent (Bikes not Fumes, CTC, 1992). Info from BikeBiz.

Getting Started Cycling

Most people can learn to ride a bike, and regardless of whether you learnt to cycle recently or way back in your youth, it’s one of those things you never forget. Yes you may need a little practice to get your confidence back but there’s nothing stopping you regaining the fun you once had, is there? There are hundreds of different cycles to choose from; mountain bikes, road bikes, touring bikes, hybrid bikes and many other types of bike.

Once you have your bike, start off slowly and build up both your basic fitness, and confidence. If you can, keep off the roads until you are ready. Try short journeys along cycle paths or through the local park, and stay on the flat – hills aren’t a good way to start cycling as they may just well put you off cycling at this stage.

Cycle helmets are a must these days, and they aren’t just for kids. I’ve been cycling for over 30 years and whilst I’m confident on a bike, I’m also wise enough to know that I should always wear a helmet. Ladies, yes, bike helmets will flatten your hair but this is fitness not fashion so please do not ignore this advice. One more thing too, it drives me mad that the number of people who see a helmet as a non-essential accessory and as such wear it on the back of their head rather than on top of their head. A helmet is there to protect, not as a sun-block or fashion accessory.

Anyway, back to getting started on a bike. Once you’ve got back in the saddle (pun intended!), you can then increase your distance and speed to try cycling to places you would normally go to by car or bus, thus not only improving your fitness & losing weight but also helping the environment. Within a few months riding your bike for a few miles at a time, longer distances will seem a doddle. You may also consider cycling to work if it’s a suitable distance. If you do want to do this, you should consider the government Ride to Work scheme if your employer offers it. If not, ask them to join, it’s very easy and lets you buy a bike at a discount.

As time progresses, why not take on a cycle challenge and complete one of the many cycling events that go on throughout the country, for example, like the Wirral Bikeathon, assuming you live near the Wirral of course!

Setting yourself a challenge will help to give you the motivation needed to train regularly, especially when things get tough.