Is Biking Better Than Running For Fitness?

Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health—both physically and mentally. Exercising helps you burn fat, improve muscle and bone strength, sleep better, and feel happier. However, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your exercise the right way. While all forms of exercise are healthy to some degree, some take a much larger toll on your body than others. For example, running on the hard pavement is much more demanding than swimming.

If you’re thinking of taking up biking to stay fit, you may be wondering about the impact it has on your body. To help you make the right decision for your body, we compared cycling and running to give you an idea of how much of a toll each activity takes on your body. Keep reading to learn more.

Impact

The most important thing to consider when you’re choosing a method of exercising—especially if you’re trying to stay fit at an older age—is impact. Impact essentially describes the effect a form of exercise has on your body. If an exercise is high-impact, that means it puts a lot of stress on your muscles, joints and bones. If an exercise is low-impact, you can essentially do it as often as you want without worrying about running your body down.

So, how exactly do you figure out whether an exercise is low-impact or high-impact? The answer lies in the physics of the activity. When you’re running, you’re putting all of your body weight on your legs. Not only that, every time your foot strikes the ground, you’re transferring the full force of that pressure through your legs and feet. These two factors combined make running a high-impact activity because they can lead to wear and tear on joints and other parts of your body.

Essentially, you want to look at how much of your body weight you have to support with a given activity and what happens with that weight. An activity where you don’t have to support your full body weight is always good, and activities that don’t require throwing that weight around (such as your feet striking the ground while running) are even better.

Running

In recent decades, running has become one of the most popular forms of exercise. Not only is it an affordable and easy way to exercise, it also allows you to spend some time outside and enjoy the scenery. In fact, running has become such a popular sport that it’s more of a culture than a sport at this point. There are tons of different marathons, runner meet-ups, running groups and businesses making running shoes and clothes. Essentially, it’s one of the easiest ways to exercise and it comes with a supportive and tight-knit community.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned in recent years that running might not be as healthy as we once thought it was. While any exercise you can get is beneficial, some exercises are better than others. Running is great for getting your blood flowing but it can take a serious toll on your body. In fact, a quick look at some of the popular running shoes will tell you how high-impact running actually is. Most of the popular running shoes on the market are marketed as such because of a few common elements: a breathable upper to reduce foot sweat, light weight, and a ton of cushioning on the bottom to make sure your feet can withstand the impact of slapping against the ground with each step.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t run, however. While running is a high-impact exercise that can ultimately cause problems, it’s still a great form of exercise that you can enjoy every now and then.

Cycling

In a lot of ways, cycling is like running. Cycling has become a culture just like running, with meet-ups and rides taking place all over the world. You can also get into cycling for a reasonable price if you’re not looking to buy the best bike on the market. However, the one thing that separates cycling from running is that it’s a low-impact way to exercise. When you’re on a bike, you’re essentially sitting down. The majority of your weight is supported by the bike you’re sitting on, so your joints and bones aren’t taking the brunt of the impact. Aside from this, the gear and wheel systems on a bike mean you don’t have to put a ton of work into pedaling to get around.

In terms of quality of exercise, there aren’t many reasons to choose running over cycling. The two activities are essentially the same in the sense that they’re both great ways to get out and enjoy nature. However, cycling also has the added benefit of being a great way to get around. If you want to add a bit more exercise to your routine, you can simply ride your bike down to the grocery store or use it to commute to work each day.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can always opt for an off-road bike so you can enjoy cycling on any terrain. However, keep in mind that you’ll put a bit more of a strain on your body if you’re tackling tough trails and climbing hills on a mountain bike.

The Verdict

Running and cycling are both great ways to exercise, but running simply puts too much stress on your body to do it all the time. Cycling, on the other hand, is a relatively low-impact exercise, so you don’t have to worry about doing too much damage to your joints while cycling. Plus you get many of the same benefits whether you choose running or cycling, so opting for the low-impact option is a smart choice.

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Shawna Newman

Shawna currently lives in Las Vegas where she gets in lots of great hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park. When she has time, she visits National Parks in a quest to visit each one in the U.S. Shawna’s favorite outdoors activity is hiking and her favorite National Park (so far) is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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