Keeping on top of fitness trends means looking into how to best train your body given your surroundings and equipment available to you. Everyone can stop what they’re doing to do a few push-ups but find a full exercise routine or primary method of exercise might be more complex than doing crunches, after all. Both cycling and running are prime examples of leg-centric workouts with a variety of benefits yet there are a few drawbacks to each that should be weighed before adding either to your routine.
Your body, your exercises and you
Admittedly, not every exercise is fit for every exerciser. Cycling and running are two very different takes on improving the same area of the body yet the impact they can have on different joints and muscle groups shouldn’t be overlooked. Running, for instance, both lower the potential mortality rate while also posing a risk for heart damage if taken to an excess, with downsides including fibrosis or even scarring.
Cycling, on the other hand, hosts some of the same possible heart issues and elevated prostate cancer risks that shouldn’t be overlooked, no matter how slight they might be.
That isn’t to say that exercise is going to lead you to injury, of course. Unless you run in excess of dozens upon dozens of miles per week or are already at an elevated risk for heart damage, joint damage or certain types of cancer, chances are you’re going to reap more benefits than downsides from your improved cardiovascular health alone.
Cycling: Low impact, long rides
Whether you’re looking to step out on the trail or flip through a spinning bike comparison to up your fitness level directly in your living room, cycling does have a few key benefits in the realm of exercise that are hard to match. It’s a lower-impact exercise than running as reported by a PubMed study that followed competitive cyclists and runners with concerns for their long-term health. The group of competitive runners showed more inflammation, soreness and even muscle damage than the cyclist group.
As for the effectiveness of the workout you do get, cycling isn’t quite as effective in terms of calories burned per hour. In a best-case scenario, an hour of cycling still lags behind an hour of running by several hundred calories worth of exerted energy, which means more time spent riding if you’d rather see the great outdoors from a bike. Yet despite the added hours required to get the most out of the exercise you’re still less likely to suffer from vertebrae compression during a bike ride.
If you’re looking for muscle gain, the edge goes to cycling again; Despite fewer calories being burned, the work you put into it is mostly focused on your legs and core, while running spreads the exertion throughout your body in a way that doesn’t lend itself well to bulking up. A runner’s physique got its colloquial name for a reason, after all.
Running: High intensity, short bursts
Going for a run could be a better individual choice for some, as shown by Doctor Hirofumi Tanaka at the University of Texas; While Dr. Tanaka extols the virtues of any aerobic activity that helps cardiovascular function, he suffers from a knee condition that prevents him from cycling and has thus chosen to run.
That isn’t to say that running is without merit, of course, as its increased level of intensity over cycling does offer increased calorie burn and doesn’t require the initial investment that cycling demands. While inflammation is less of an issue on a bike, runners can simply go outside and run. If you have shoes and a stretch of land to move across, you’re already prepared to stretch and exercise, easy as that.
Then comes the issue of time management. While runners are free to adapt to most of their surroundings with little issue, cyclists who prefer mountain trails have to factor in travel times to their exercise routines. Road cyclists do get the benefit of being able to roll their hobby into their daily commute if feasible for their area, yet that factor may lose weight if the local climate is too poor to encourage regular exposure.
Between the cycling and running there is no clear-cut winner. Both forms of exercise are completely valid, and each has its own set of upsides and downsides to consider before pouring money into a new exercise routine. Weigh your health concerns, ensure your local weather patterns play nicely with your travel needs and don’t be afraid to take your exercise indoors.