Cycling for Weight Loss – Does It Work?

There are various weight loss measures people adopt to lose weight such as limiting energy intake from total sugar and fats, increasing vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, etc. in the diet. In addition to this, you can also follow various types of physical activities and exercises such as walking, running, jogging, weight training, yoga, swimming, cycling, etc. for your weight loss.

Cycling is a very popular and enjoyable form of exercise that can keep you fit and help marvelously to lose weight. Conscious cycling for weight loss is undertaken both through outdoor cycling as well as indoor stationary biking.

As per an estimate of Harvard Health, a person with 155 pounds or 70-kg of weight burns 260 calories in each 30-minute cycling at a moderate pace of 19 to 22.4 km. per hour or 12 to 13. 9 miles per hour. (1)

Does biking really help in reducing BMI leading to weight loss?

Body Mass Index or BMI is the standard measure or tool to calculate your body fat based on your height and weight. Many systematic studies and researches have established that cycling is one of the effective and reliable forms of exercise for reducing your BMI leading to weight loss effectively and sustainably.

A systematic survey that sought to study that whether people living in compact settlements are prone to more physical activities such as walking and cycling resulting in lower BMI in comparison to urban dwellers associated with higher BMI leading to overweight and obesity epidemic.

The survey involved 93.5% of people who drove alone, 80.2% of people who walked to work, and 70.0% of people who consistently used cycling. Eventually, it was found out that active commuting especially walking, and cycling is a viable and popular choice towards reducing overweight and obesity but is not associated with the phenomenon that compact settlement promotes lower BMI.

This study ultimately established that active commuting or consistent walking or cycling contributes to lower your BMI leading to weight loss and preventing you to get overweight and obese. (2)

In addition to the above survey on the impact of active commuting especially walking and cycling on reducing BMI leading to weight loss, here are the outcome of few more research to establish that cycling can effectively work on your weight loss efforts and has a remarkable positive impact on glycemia and blood pressure:

Does spinning and bicycle exercise contribute to physical fitness, body composition, and blood variables?

A study was conducted in Korea involving 24 female middle school students of Seoul Yeoksam middle school to find out how spinning and bicycle exercise affect the general health and in particular body composition, physical fitness, and blood variables of the adolescents.

12 participants out of the total 24 were provided with spinning cycles and the rest 12 with general bicycles to do cycling on a routine basis 1 hour per day after their school and 3 days per week for a total of 16 weeks.

The study team examined the body composition, physical fitness and blood variables before the study and after the completion of 16 weeks of exercise. The team also closely monitored the sit-ups, back strengths, 1200 running, side steps, and glucose, reactive oxygen species, malondialdehyde, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol as part of blood variables all through the 16 weeks period of the study.

At the end of the study, it was found out that BMI and the percentage of fat ware remarkably different in a spinning group and the physical fitness marvelously improved in both the groups.

Though the body weight did not show any significant difference between the two groups, the recommendation of the study concluded that cycling can provide you with positive changes in physical fitness, blood constituents, and body composition. (3)

Does cycling have positive effects on glycemia, blood pressure, and weight in young persons with type 2 diabetes?

A study in 2017 reveals that aerobic exercise especially cycling is associated with significant improvement in weight loss and glycemia in type 2 diabetes. The research further suggests that cycling is magnificently beneficial especially for the people between the ages group of 18 to 40 years with type 2 diabetes.

The study was aimed to evaluate the effect of cycling on blood pressure, glycosylated hemoglobin (HbAlc) of people with type two diabetes (T2D) over a period of six months.

Out of the total 26 identified T2D persons, 22 persons participated in the study who were not treated with insulin and took not more than two oral antidiabetic drugs (OADs) and belonged to a cycling group in a metropolitan city of northern India. The participants were engaged in cycling 25-km per day for 5 days a week for a total period of six months.

Eventually, the study team recorded the baseline weight, BP and HbAlc before and after the study and evaluated the outcome with appropriate statistics. The outcome of the study established that you can effectively reduce HbAlc, BP, and weight through cycling.

The study further recommended that aerobic exercise especially cycling should be promoted as an ideal, reliable and authentic method of exercise particularly for young type 2 diabetes cases to get maximum benefit in improving BP, HbAlc and above all weight. (4)

 Can cycling result in effective weight loss without dietary restrictions?

Cycling has the potential of providing you with your expected weight loss even if you do not follow strict dietary restrictions. Another important aspect of cycling in the context of weight loss is more interesting than the fact that you can lose weight with cycling without dieting.

It is often believed that aerobic exercise including walking, swimming and cycling is beneficial and effective for people desirous of weight loss. A systematic study claims that people without any dieting can reduce weight by walking up to 10% and by cycling up to 12%. But the people who tried to reduce weight by swimming could not reduce their weight.

The research was conducted with a view to studying the effect of swimming especially of people with obesity and orthopedic disabilities as they are often advised for swimming as part of their weight loss program.

The study involved moderate to minimally obese young women who sought for weight loss through various types of aerobic exercise without any dietary restrictions. The participants were assigned three different types of exercises namely brisk walking, swimming, and cycling.

All participating young women progressively and gradually extended the duration of their exercise to one hour daily and continued till little more than six months.

After the study period, it was found that the women who undertook brisk walking effectively reduced 10% of their weight while the women who undertook cycling reduced 12% of their weight. Unfortunately, no sign of weight loss was noticed among the women who undertook swimming and resulted in 0% of weight loss.

Eventually, the study was concluded with authentic revelation and conformation that your aerobic exercise with exclusive cycling can effectively give you the result of substantial weight loss even if you do not follow any dieting. However, how much you will reduce your weight depends upon your intensity of cycling. (5)

Is cycling effective for weight loss for premenopausal women?

Since there was no study conducted on this nature, the study aimed at finding out the effects of cycling on weight loss among premenopausal women. The study was undertaken for a period of 16 years followed up with another 2 years, a total of 18 years and involved 414 women duly recording the weight change between 1989 to 2005.

Among the participating women, 39% of women undertook brisk walking and 1.2% of women undertook cycling for 30 minutes which later extended longer between 1989 to 2005.

Eventually, the result was recorded as reduced and less weight gain by 1.81 kg for women who undertook brisk walking and 1.59 kg for women who undertook cycling. The study finally reached into conclusion that like brisk walking, cycling is beneficial for reduced weight gain for premenopausal women. (6)

Can obese and overweight people rely on cycling for weight loss?

Yes, obese and overweight people can still rely on cycling for effectively reducing their weight. A recent study in 2017 by the faculty of health and medical sciences at the University of Copenhagen established that overweight and inactive people can effectively lose fat mass by cycling than going for other exercises in their leisure time. 

The researches further recommended that if you are overweight, cycling is the appropriate and time-effective solution for you if you wish to substantially lose weight and keep yourself fit. But you also need to lead a busy everyday life in addition to cycling.

The study was conducted involving 132 overweight people with Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 35 kg/m2. The entire group of participants was divided into four groups and the 1st group was assigned with cycling to and fro of their work. The second and third groups were assigned with physical exercise 5 times a week engaging one group with higher intensity whereas the other moderate.

The fourth group was left with no exercise and functioned as usual. All the four groups were thoroughly monitored by the researches and records were maintained for six months.

After six months when the results were analyzed, it was found out that the group which performed intense exercise reduced 4.5 kg in comparison to the fourth group. The group that performed moderate exercise reduced 2.6 kg of weight against the fourth group and the cycling group reduced 4.2 kg after six months.

Therefore, though you can still adopt intense exercise to get maximum result of 4.5 kg of weight loss but reducing almost the same weight of 4.2 kg by simple and usual cycling without any intensity or stress is obviously prudent. (7)

Why should you adopt cycling for weight loss?

This is, of course, a tricky question that why should you rely on cycling for weight loss whereas there are so many other ways such as other aerobic exercises, numerous types of dieting, and even medication and supplements, etc.?

The answer is simple and precise. People who rely on exercise know that the intensity of exercise they stick on is not going to continue, at least after two or three years. But you can still continue cycling because it is enjoyable, adventurous, and beneficial.

Secondly, the science of exercise says that HIIT or high-intensity interval training is the best way to burn fat, stimulate hormone of human growth, and boost your fitness. Cycling is best for HIIT as you pedal intensively for 3 to 5 minutes and then let your cycle roll while you take an interval and continue with the same.

Above all, you will find a lot of friends to accompany you in your cycling exercise. Cycling in a likeminded group will create a friendly atmosphere that will turn your cycling exercise into a jolly riding trip every day. However, you may not get this experience if you are doing indoor cycling, but indoor cycling has its own excitements.

What are the best bikes for weight loss cycling?

The appropriate bicycle for your weight loss is the one that you can pleasantly ride without any stress for a long time. Therefore, you should choose your bicycle carefully after trying a number of bicycles and get the one that fits your style and body. Here are a few suggestions to try one from the below list:

Road bike 

Some people prefer road bikes which come with a sleeker frame and thin tires. If you feel comfortable with light-weight bicycles, then a road bike is the best bicycle for you. You need not put extra effort while riding a road bike even when you wish to ride it fast.

However, some riders do not prefer the road bike because you have to lean slightly forward while riding a road bike. Secondly, if you have safety concerns or have back pain, you should not go for a road bike.

Mountain, Cruiser, or Cross bike 

These bikes have thick and heavy tires and come with suspension and cushioning for extra comforts. You need not lean forward in cruiser, cross or mountain bike like the road bike.

You can comfortably sit straight with upright posture on a mountain or cruiser bike. The thicker and heavy tires of cruiser/mountain bikes provide you with a sense of confidence as they are safer and stable. If you are new to cycling, you should go for the mountain/cruiser/cross bike.

Electric bike

 As a new biker or if you intend to use your bike for an extended period on a daily basis, you should choose an electric bike or popularly called e-bike. You can pedal your electric bike when you feel the need to do so and you can take the assistance to boost the speed especially when you are on a hill.

Recumbent bike

Many bikers both in the gym as well as outdoor cycling prefer recumbent bikes for the convenience of reclined body positions to an upright position. The recumbent bike allows you to sit closer to the ground with a wider saddle.

If you suffer from back problems, the recumbent bike is the best option for you. However, you may find it difficult to ride in the traffic. Recumbent bikes are also considered not safe in heavy traffic.

How fast should you cycle to lose weight?

If you are cycling with the sole intention of reducing your weight, the intensity of cycling is more important than the speed of your cycling. The intensity of cycling refers to how hard you work, and speed refers to how fast you ride. The type of cycle you have and the trail you prefer to ride are factors to decide the intensity of your cycling.

For example, if you have a mountain bike and you are cycling on a hilly, muddy and off-road trail at an approximate speed of 10 miles per hour, you are perhaps working very hard or with high intensively. But if you have a road bike and prefer to pedal down a hill, you are almost putting no effort into your cycling.

The best way to compromise between intensity and the speed of your cycling is to take the help of a heart rate monitor. The device will ultimately reveal to you how hard you are working irrespective of your fast or lower speed.

However, when it comes to bike trails, almost all contemporary cities have continuous and dedicated bike trails. If you are a beginner, it is good for you to start with these trails instead of starting with adventures on the roads.

The bottom line of the entire above discourse is to ensure that you effectively reduce your weight not by tormenting yourself through strict dieting or working through intense exercise, but through easy and simple cycling that is enjoyable and beneficial. If you have already started cycling, you need to be careful of a few safety measures such as using helmet and eye-glasses, taking your ID and cellphone while riding as well as a bottle of water that would be essentially helpful in your riding.    

References

1) https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495983/

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5667616/

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5583829/

5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/3618879/

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119355/

7) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171101102839.htm

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