Best Cardio Workout: Exercise Bike vs. Running

If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine. 

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults should get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week for optimum health.

For some people, those guidelines seem doable while others might struggle to fit the daily activity in.  

Especially if you have joint or back issues, or are just starting out, it might seem intimidating to get on a treadmill and start running.  That’s why it’s important to compare the advantages of the exercise bike vs. running.

Fortunately, there are lots of different exercise modalities to choose from, and something that works for everyone.  Here we’re going to break down two of the most popular, riding an exercise bike and running, and compare them.

Below we will outline the benefits of each, and important considerations like the muscle groups used, risk factors, and who would most benefit from the type of exercise.

Exercise Bike vs. Running - Benefits

Cardiovascular exercise has dozens of benefits, which is why it’s such an essential part of your daily routine. 

Riding an exercise bike and running are two ways to get in your cardio that offers similar benefits, though the risks and contraindications are very different. 

Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll see whether you choose to get your 30 to 60 minutes riding or running.

Mental Benefits

Getting your heart pumping increases blood flow to your brain, which has lots of profound effects on the body. 

This can decrease your risk of a stroke or developing Alzheimer’s disease and can improve your memory and ability to think and reason.  You’ll also enjoy a release of endorphins that can improve your mood, energy levels, and reduce your stress.

Metabolic Benefits

Not only does cardio burn calories which can help reduce body fat and assist with weight loss, but it also increases the oxygen supply to your muscles which help them get stronger and better able to perform for longer periods of time. 

In real life scenarios, this means more energy to chase after your kids, go on exciting vacations, and stamina to get through the workday.

Bone And Joint Benefits

If you get moving on a regular basis, you can stave off degenerative bone diseases like osteoarthritis and decrease your risk of falling and breaking something later in life. 

What’s more, if you already have issues with arthritis or mobility, doing the right kind of low impact activity, like riding an exercise bike, can help maintain your range of motion and reduce discomfort in your joints.

Disease-Fighting Benefits

Regular activity wards off a whole host of diseases, like high cholesterol, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and issues with your lungs, heart, and other organs.

Exercise vs. Running - Muscles Used

Riding a bike and running use the same muscles as the primary movers in the exercise.  Your leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves are responsible for most of the movement, and the calories burned.

When you run, you will recruit a few additional muscles.  Your obliques, abdominals, lower back, and hip flexors, also commonly called your “core” would be put to work helping you balance with each stride.  You will also use your shoulders a bit as your arms swing with your pace.

However, even with the additional muscle involvement, the calorie burn per minute between the two exercises is nearly identical if you’re working at the same intensity.

Exercise Bike Vs. Running - Risks

While the exercise bike and running have lots in common, where they start to differ are in potential risk factors.

What Are The Risks Of Riding An Exercise Bike?

Exercise bikes are considered one of the safest pieces of cardiovascular equipment.  Because riding is a non-impact activity, it’s a great choice for anyone who has issues with their joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or balance.  Because it’s done from a seated position, it’s also a perfect fit if you have back problems and need additional support.

It’s often prescribed in clinical settings as a rehabilitative exercise because nearly everyone can ride an exercise bike worry-free, but that doesn’t mean that the workouts aren’t challenging.

Advanced athletes and exercisers can take the workout up a notch by increasing the resistance, pedaling faster, or using a pre-programmed drill that simulates hill riding or tough intervals to get a high-quality workout without stress on the joints.

What Are The Risks Of Running?

Whether you're someone who runs indoors or outdoors, there are a few additional risk factors to be aware of before you lace up and head out.  Running requires balance and coordination and is considered a high-impact activity. 

If you have any joint issues, it could be not only uncomfortable but may also pose a dangerous risk of injury.

Additionally, while treadmills are a very safe piece of equipment, they are powered by a motor that won’t stop just because you do.  This fact results in around 20,000 visits to the emergency room each year from someone falling off the equipment due to a misstep or user error, so be careful and follow the safety instructions.

If you're someone who likes to run outside, you’re at an increased risk of injury due to a fall. 

Having a bad footfall on uneven pavement or a trail could lead to a twisted ankle, and if you’re not near to other runners or a neighborhood, you may have to wait awhile for someone to help.  Be sure to always take your cell phone and identification with you in case of an incident when you’re out running.

Conclusion

When determining which is better between riding the exercise bike and running, the answer is pretty simple. 

It’s whichever one you will do consistently.

For many people, the impact and potential injury risks associated with running are scary, and the activity itself is too advanced for their fitness level.  Riding the exercise bike gives you all the benefits with none of the risks, regardless of how in shape you are.

No matter which you choose, be sure to aim for at least 30 minutes a day five days a week to live a healthy, happy, and mobile life.

This post was last updated on November 2nd, 2017 at 05:48 pm

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