How does bike riding stack up against other types of exercise?
By: Kristin Butcher
We put bicycling in a head-to-head battle against other popular forms of exercise to find out once and for all which activity is the best way to combine fun with good old fashioned fitness.
Both CrossFit and bicycling are known for their gluteal-enhancing abilities, but bicyclists aren’t required to tell everyone about each bike ride (we post pictures instead) or use acronyms like WOD and PR, even if we sometimes DNF (did not finish) after breaking a spoke while JRA (just riding along). While CrossFit focuses on building power through high-intensity interval training, bicycling spans the fitness gamut from muscle-building mountain biking, lung-busting hill repeats, and long endurance rides. Bonus: No rotator cuff injuries.
Instead of listening to Enya on repeat for an hour, bike riding is backed by the steady rhythm of the melodic crunch of tires spinning on asphalt. Both yoga and bicycling hone spiritual and physical balance, and each offers ample opportunity to fall over in public, whether we’re taken down by the tree pose or new clipless pedals at a stoplight. But the reason bicycling reigns supreme is that there’s no spandex. Wait, bad example. Well, at least with bicycling, Enya is optional.
Running offers many of the same benefits as bicycling. Both can be done from the front door or enjoyed far from home, and each can be picked up easily yet refined throughout a lifetime. However bicycling’s low-impact nature makes it easy on the body. A new study from Appalachian State University comparing bicycling and running concluded that runners experience more inflammation, soreness, and muscle damage after similarly intense periods of activity, which makes bicycling a perfect cross-training exercise for even the most ardent runners.
Hitting the gym
With bicycling, there are no weights to re-rack or someone else’s sweat to wipe off a machine before using it. You don’t have to wait in line for the bench or search for a dumbbell that another user was too tired to put away after 50 bicep curls. There are no gym memberships, awkward locker room conversations, or pretentious juice bars. Instead bicycling offers free unlimited access to miles of smiles.
Okay, fine. This wins.
The most effective exercise is whatever makes you happy enough to do it regularly. Bicycling increases strength and cardio fitness, but what really makes bikes stand out from the crowd is that they take you wherever you want to go, whether it’s to a CrossFit box, a yoga studio, or to the park with a hula hoop.