Will Cycling 1 Hour A Day Help You Lose Weight?

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Cycling one hour a day can be a very effective weight loss strategy.

There are a plethora of positive benefits to cycling: improving the health of your heart and lungs, immersing yourself in nature, decreasing stress and boosting your mood, and meeting new friends… the list goes on!

Another major reason that many people take up cycling is to lose weight.

Cycling is an efficient, low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise and is a great tool to utilize when it comes to burning calories.

Cycling for an hour a day can be a great tool in aiding weight loss – but it’s important to understand the factors that can influence its effectiveness, and other considerations to keep in mind.

Today we will discuss the science of cycling and its role in weight loss, the pros and cons of cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss, and the other health implications.

We’ll be covering:

  • Cycling 1 Hour A Day For Weight Loss: Does It Work?
  • Cycling 1 Hour A Day: Pros & Cons
  • 3 Reasons Why You’re Cycling But Not Losing Weight
  • Is Weight Really The Best Metric To Measure?

Let’s jump into it!

Cycling 1 Hour a Day for Weight Loss: Title Image

Cycling 1 Hour A Day For Weight Loss: Does It Work?

Cycling burns calories. When all other variables are equal, increasing your level of energy expenditure will likely create a calorie deficit. This is important because a caloric deficit is a crucial component of losing weight.

A caloric deficit is when you consume fewer calories than you burn.

The number of calories you burn daily depends on various factors, including your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the calories expended through exercise and daily activities, and the energy required for digesting the food you eat.

To lose one pound of body fat, you need to establish a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories.

To put it into perspective, if you aim to lose one pound per week, you should burn approximately 500 more calories per day than you consume.

Rough estimates of the calories required to cycle for 1 hour are as follows:

  • Low-Moderate Effort Level: around 300 calories an hour
  • Moderate-High Effort Level: around 600 calories an hour
  • High-Max Effort Level: around 1000 calories an hour

We should note that these are rough estimates, and you can expect a degree of variation based on your individual size, age, experience, and effort level.

So is cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss a guaranteed method?

It certainly can be – but while the maths above makes it seem like a sure thing, the full story can be a little more complicated.

Later in this article, we’ll discuss a few reasons why you may not be losing weight despite cycling 1 hour a day.

Three cyclists ride past a field at sunrise.

Cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss: The pros & cons

The Pros of Cycling 1 Hour a Day for Weight Loss

#1: Increased Metabolic health

Committing to cycling an hour a day can boost your metabolism.

As you build muscle through cycling, your body’s overall health and metabolic rate increase. Muscles burn more calories at rest compared to fat, so the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you naturally burn throughout the day.

#2: Easily Accessible

Unlike getting down to the gym or going to a class, you can jump straight on your bike and head out the door.

If you don’t have a bike, you can usually pick up a secondhand one for a relatively low cost. Otherwise, you can get an indoor trainer and use it in your home!

#3: Easy on the joints

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, which means it puts less stress on your joints compared to high-impact activities like running.

This makes cycling a suitable low-risk option for people with joint issues and a history of injuries.

Don’t worry, though; you can still push hard on a bike and get a serious workout in.

Two cyclists on mountain bikes pause to admire the view.

The Cons of Cycling 1 Hour a Day for Weight Loss

It’s important to find a balance that works for your individual circumstances and goals. Cycling is a fantastic way to boost your health, but for some individuals, it can still have its drawbacks.

#1: Injury Risk

Cycling is a repetitive activity where the majority of the workload is placed on the legs.

Suddenly cycling for 1 hour every day will without proper rest and recovery can increase the risk of overuse injuries such as muscle strains, tendonitis, or stress fractures.

If you are a regular cyclist, 1 hour may seem like nothing; if you have never cycled before, it could sound like an insurmountable goal.

It’s essential to listen to your body and be realistic about your current capabilities. Perhaps cycling for 30 minutes a day is a more realistic starting point, or maybe you feel ready to go straight in at 1 hour per day.

Your body can do incredible things; it just needs sufficient time to adapt to stimuli.

You can avoid overuse injuries by varying your workout intensity and volume, alongside incorporating rest days to allow your muscles and joints to recover.

#2: Time commitment

Although cycling is a form of exercise that has relatively low barriers to entry, cycling an hour a day is a significant time commitment.

It can be challenging to balance cycling an hour with work, family commitments, and other activities.

Make sure to be realistic with your schedule and assess whether cycling every day is feasible and sustainable for you.

You are more likely to stick with a goal if it is realistic.

#3: Burnout

Doing the same exercise for the same amount of time every day can lead to burnout if you don’t enjoy it.

Incorporating variety in your workouts by exploring different routes, riding at different intensities, or joining different cycling groups can keep things interesting, making it more sustainable in the long run.

A cyclist rides his mountain bike through the jungle hills.

3 Reasons why you’re Cycling but not losing weight

It doesn’t always go the way we expect it to. Cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss will not be a cast-iron guarantee that you lose weight.

Weight loss is also influenced by factors such as diet, overall physical activity level, and individual characteristics.

Here are a few reasons why you may not be losing weight despite regular cycling:

#1: Putting on muscle

In some cases, cycling an hour a day will cause you to gain weight in the form of muscle at the same rate you’re losing weight in fat.

Therefore, the overall number isn’t painting the true picture.

The true indication of whether cycling an hour a day is effective for you could lie in other health metrics, or even just whether it makes you feel healthier.

If you feel you’re becoming healthier, then you probably are!

#2: Too many Cafe Stops…

I don’t personally believe that you can have too many cafes stops on a ride; at least, I’m yet to find the limit! I sometimes wonder if riding my bike is just an excuse to tour the local offerings of cake and coffee.

Nevertheless, if my goal was to lose weight, then assuming we’re burning around 450 calories an hour out on a ride, there could certainly be an upper cake limit. In fact, one or two slices will usually do.

When we cycle, it is tempting to consume extra calories to keep our energy systems topped up. In fact, it’s highly recommended for endurance cyclists on extended rides to keep consuming calories on the bike.

If your diet is filled with calorie-dense junk food, though, then cycling alone may not be enough to make you lose weight.

Alongside cycling daily, we should try to dial in our eating habits and make conscious dietary choices; this will create a more balanced and sustainable approach to weight loss.

#3: Individual Differences

Various factors such as metabolism, body composition, hormonal balance, and medical conditions can have an influence on how easily someone loses weight.

The positive benefits of regular physical exercise can be measured in many different ways, as we’ll explore below.

Three older cyclists race their bikes on a road through the desert.

Is weight the best metric to measure?

As a personal trainer, I regularly met with clients whose goals are focused on weight loss. It’s a specific and measurable goal that can be highly motivating.

Nevertheless, weight loss isn’t always linear, and we often have fluctuations or plateaus even if we are doing all the right things.

In some cases, our weight may even increase as we build muscle.

It can be incredibly demoralizing to see our weight stay the same even if we’re doing all the “right” things.

However, it’s important to remember that your overall health cannot be reduced to a single number.

Here are two other factors to consider when analyzing the positive benefits of cycling 1 hour per day.

#1. Cycling boosts your overall health

According to physical activity guidelines, adults should aim to be active on most days of the week – accumulating a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.

Regular exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and reducing the risk of various lifestyle diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Cycling for an hour a day goes above and beyond the physical activity recommendations for overall health provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

#2. Cycling is a great stress reliever

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that people who take part in cycling suffer lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than sedentary folk.

You don’t necessarily need to do it for an hour either.

In my personal opinion, there is nothing better than getting out on your bike and allowing yourself space to sit with your thoughts and emotions.

If you notice a positive effect on your mood, but your weight has stayed the same, shouldn’t you count that as a win?

Two cyclists ride their bikes through the forest.

Cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss: The conclusion

In summary, while cycling an hour a day is undoubtedly an effective and valuable tool, it is important to acknowledge the broader context and consider the interconnectedness of various factors that influence weight loss.

By adopting a holistic approach that encompasses both exercise and nutrition, you can optimize your chances of achieving your weight loss goals.

Ultimately, achieving a healthy weight is just one element within the wider context of good health – not the other way around!

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As a qualified sports massage therapist and personal trainer with eight years' experience in the field, Ben plays a leading role in BikeTips' injury and recovery content. Alongside his professional experience, Ben is an avid cyclist, splitting his time between his road and mountain bike. He is a particular fan of XC ultra-endurance biking, but nothing beats bikepacking with his mates. Ben has toured extensively throughout the United Kingdom, French Alps, and the Pyrenees ticking off as many iconic cycling mountains as he can find. He currently lives in the Picos de Europa of Spain's Asturias region, a stone's throw from the legendary Altu de 'Angliru - a spot that allows him to watch the Vuelta a España roll past his doorstep each summer.

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