Cycling For Weight Loss: Does It Work?

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There are many physical and mental health benefits of cycling, from improving aerobic fitness and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease to strengthening the muscles in the legs and boosting mood.

Another fantastic benefit is cycling for weight loss. Biking is an efficient form of exercise to burn calories, helping you maintain a healthy weight.

When you’re trying to lose weight, getting consistent exercise will help you generate the caloric deficit you need to burn body fat, and although walking and running are often the go-to types of exercise, it can also be just as effective to try cycling for weight loss

In this article, we will discuss cycling for weight loss, including the number of calories you burn cycling and tips for losing weight cycling.

We’ll be covering:

  • Is Cycling Good For People Who Are Overweight?
  • Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss?
  • How Many Calories Do You Burn Cycling?
  • Calories Burned Cycling Chart
  • Cycling For Weight Loss: 4 Top Tips

Ready for the lowdown on cycling for weight loss?

Let’s jump in!

Cycling For Weight Loss: Title Image

Is Cycling Good For People Who Are Overweight?

In most cases, any type of exercise can potentially be safely enjoyed by people of all body sizes.

However, cycling is a particularly good form of exercise for people who are overweight or obese because it’s a low-impact exercise.

Because you are seated and your feet are always in contact with the pedals, cycling reduces the impact and force on your joints compared to activities like jogging.

Therefore, for people who are overweight or obese, cycling is often more comfortable and is associated with a lower risk of injuries compared to high-impact, weight-bearing exercises like running and jumping rope.

Low-down angle of a cyclist riding away on an asphalt road.

Is Cycling Good for Weight Loss?

The short answer is yes, biking is a good form of exercise for weight loss. 

Losing weight requires generating a caloric deficit, which means that you are consuming fewer calories than you are burning in a day.

To lose one pound of body fat, you have to create a caloric deficit of 3500 calories, which works out to 500 calories per day if you want to lose one pound of fat per week.

Cycling can help you lose weight because it burns calories, which helps you drive up your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) so that it’s easier to create a caloric deficit.

Let’s look at an example. Say you need to eat 2000 calories per day to maintain a constant weight based on your current exercise levels, and you start burning an extra 500 calories per day biking for weight loss. If you don’t compensate by increasing your caloric intake, you should start to lose about one pound per week with your cycling workouts.

Essentially, whether you lose weight cycling depends on your overall caloric balance, but cycling can definitely help you lose weight if you’re mindful of your caloric intake.

Three cyclists ride spin bikes at the gym.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Cycling?

If you’re going to start bike riding for weight loss, you need to know how many calories you burn biking.

The number of calories you burn in any type of workout depends not just on the type of exercise you’re doing but also on the intensity and duration of your workout, as well as your body weight and composition. 

Therefore, to determine the number of calories burned cycling, you need to consider how much you weigh, how long you’re riding the bike, and how vigorously you are cycling.

Harvard Health Publishing reports that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity stationary biking burns about 210 calories for a 125-pound person, 252 calories for a 155-pound person, and 292 calories for a 185-pound person. A 30-minute vigorous stationary bike workout burns approximately 315 calories for a 125-pound person, 378 calories for a 155-pound person, and 441 calories for a 185-pound person.

However, if you are not close to one of these body weights, the best way to estimate the number of calories you burn cycling for your own personal cycling workout is to wear a heart rate monitor while you ride because your heart rate can provide insight into your effort level.

Additionally, knowing your cycling power, or wattage, can tell you the Metabolic Equivalents (METs) for cycling at that particular intensity level, which can then be used to calculate the number of calories burned cycling per minute.

The Compendium of Physical Activities reports that cycling can be the equivalent of approximately 3.5-14 METs or so, depending on your cycling power and intensity, or the effort level of your workout.

You can see the various METS for cycling at different intensities in the table below:

METsExercise Biking Intensity
3.5Very light, easy, low-intensity stationary exercise biking, 30-50 watts
4.8Low-to moderate-intensity stationary exercise biking, 51-89 watts
6.8Moderate-intensity stationary exercise biking, 90-100 watts
8.5Spin bike class, RPM cycling
8.8Vigorous, high-intensity stationary exercise biking, 101-160 watts
11Vigorous, stationary exercise biking, 161-200 watts
14Very vigorous, stationary exercise biking, 201-270 watts
7General stationary exercise biking

Using these METs values, you can calculate the number of calories burned cycling based on your body weight and the length of your workout using the equation for determining energy expenditure during exercise:

Calories burned per minute = (METs x 3.5 x body weight in kg) / 200.

For example, consider someone who weighs 165 pounds (75 kg) and bikes at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike at 90-100 watts, giving them an estimated MET value of around 6.8.

For them, the formula would be:

6.8 METs x 3.5 x 75 / 200 = 8.925 calories burned per minute.

So, if they rode their bike at that intensity for 30 minutes, the calories burned would be 30 x 8.925. They would therefore have burned 268 calories in their half-hour workout. 

If the same person does a vigorous cycling workout at 161-200 watts, giving an estimated MET value of 11, they would be burning 14.4 calories per minute. So, for a half-hour workout, they’d have burned 432 calories.

Six people begin cycling for weight loss on spin bikes.

Calories Burned Cycling Chart

Clearly, the number of calories burned cycling varies significantly based on the power or intensity level. The following reference chart shows the number of calories burned cycling on an exercise bike at different intensities or power levels:

All the calculations in this chart are based on 30 minutes of constant exercise.

Weight (lbs)Weight (kg)Calories Burned Cycling 30-50 WattsCalories Burned Cycling 51-89 WattsCalories Burned Cycling 90-100 WattsCalories Burned SpinningCalories Burned Cycling 101-160 WattsCalories Burned Cycling 161-200 WattsCalories Burned Cycling 201-270 Watts
Calories Burned Cycling Chart
A cyclist in a purple coat descends a mountain.

4 Tips for Cycling for Weight Loss

#1: Vary Your Workouts

To prevent your body from getting too comfortable and adapting fully to your workouts, vary the intensity and duration over the course of the week.

Try intervals of different lengths and durations, and if you’re riding outside, do hilly rides, long rides, and so on.

#2: Boost The Intensity

Cycling for weight loss will be most effective when you dial up your intensity. The harder you’re working, the more calories you’ll burn biking.

You want your heart rate to be at least 50-75% of your maximal heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise, and the American Heart Association recommends a target heart rate of 70-85% of your maximum heart rate for vigorous physical activity.

#3: Gradually Increase Duration

The longer you ride your bike, the more calories you will burn as long as you don’t reduce the intensity. 

You might only be able to cycle a few minutes at first, but add 5 minutes or so to your average ride per week until you’re at 30-60 minutes per workout.

#4: Bike More Often

Because cycling is a very low-impact activity, you can safely bike nearly every day, especially if you are varying your workouts. It’s a good idea to take at least one full rest day per week.

If you’re cycling for weight loss, the more you ride, the more you can lose.

Found This Cycling For Weight Loss Guide Helpful? Check Out More From The BikeTips Experts Below!

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With over a decade of experience as a certified personal trainer, two Masters degrees (Exercise Science and Prosthetics and Orthotics), and as a UESCA-certified endurance nutrition and triathlon coach, Amber is as well-qualified as they come when it comes to handling sports science topics for BikeTips. Amber's experience as a triathlon coach demonstrates her broad and deep knowledge of performance cycling.

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