How to Lose Weight by Bicycling

Woman riding bike through rural landscape
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Bicycling is a great way to see the outdoors, take in the fresh air, or simply get around town. It’s also an efficient way to burn excess calories, shed body fat and improve cardiovascular health. Depending on your body weight and the intensity of your ride, you will probably burn somewhere between 400 and 500 calories on a one-hour bicycling trip.

The motion of bicycling, especially uphill and high-intensity cycling, is a great way to develop muscle and burn fat. As both the large (quadriceps and hamstring) and small (calf) muscles of the legs work, they become stronger and more developed. The beauty of developing more muscle is that it not only makes the body look leaner and stronger, but it raises the resting metabolic rate. The higher your resting metabolic rate, the more calories you burn even at rest. So eight hours after your bike ride, sitting on your couch, you’re still burning extra calories.

Bicycling also works to strengthen the core region of the body, the abdominal and back muscles. A strong “core” is essential for good balance and posture, and beneficial for activities of daily living such as lifting groceries, carrying children and doing yard work.

Cycling for Weight Loss

If weight loss is your objective, cycling can be very beneficial. A gradual weight loss of approximately one pound a week is a wise goal. Gradual weight loss helps to maintain muscle tissue (remember sitting on the couch burning calories?) and will greatly increase your chance of long term success. People who lose a great deal of weight quickly, often through deprivation-type diets, are very likely to regain the pounds within the first year.

Eliminating or burning 3500 calories will result in a weight loss of one pound. Assuming that you burn approximately 500 calories on a one hour bicycle ride, a daily ride would equal a one pound weight loss after just one week.

One side note about lifestyle changes: they are best made one at a time. If a daily physical activity is a new part of your life, deny the urge to make too many other changes until the daily activity is established. Oftentimes people attempt to reform themselves in dramatic and unrealistic ways and the outcome is doomed for failure. (Consider some of your past New Year’s resolutions.) In other words, it is probably not a good idea to start exercising, give up sugar, caffeine, and cigarettes all at the same time.

Better Eating for Better Performance

Once you have established a regular cycling routine and are reaping the benefits of feeling stronger and healthier, you may want to make some small dietary changes. The key to a healthy diet is increasing whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods that are naturally whole and unprocessed) and knocking out the less healthy portions of your diet. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will support the loss of extra pounds while fueling your body on cycling excursions.

In time, cycling will help you to feel stronger, leaner and more positive about your body. If you continue with daily activity and healthful eating, a better body is a sure thing.