Which is a better cardio workout: running or cycling?


Cardio workouts are not created equal. Here, the two giants of cardio go head-to-head to see which makes for a better workout: two wheels or two feet…

The cardio workout science

Running: When done at the same level of perceived effort, you’ll shift slightly more belly fat pounding the pavement than you will in the saddle. – University of Birmingham

Cycling: Just finished on the squat rack? You’ll preserve more muscle mass by combining weight training with cycling than you will with running. – Stephen F Austin State University

Read more: This is the best form of cardio for weight loss


The good

Running: Running can benefit your mind as well as your body. Research from the University of Arizona found that it can help you link different parts of your brain, which boosts planning and decision-making skills and the ability to multitask.

Cycling: The commuter’s friend, cycling is easy to incorporate into your daily routine and costs six times less than travelling by car. The low-impact nature of pedalling also means it’s easier on the joints than running.

The bad

Running: The most common cause of shin splints? Yep, running. Step out in the wrong trainers for your gait and you can damage your knees, hips and ankles even more than you can by wearing high heels. Feeling pain? Get it checked before training.

Cycling: Position your handlebars incorrectly and you can damage your genital tissue. For female cyclists, having lower handlebars increases pressure down there, which can reduce sensitivity. And no one wants that. Go for a bike set-up before riding.

Read more: The 3 cardio moves that’ll get you leaner legs faster

The nutrition

Running: Taking a daily dose of Lyprinol, a marine oil with anti-inflammatory properties made from green-lipped mussels, can help aid post-running muscle recovery and reduce soreness. – Indiana University

Cycling: Down a shot of beetroot juice a few hours before cycling and the nitrates will help you shave two percent off your PB and increase your endurance by 16%. – University of Exeter

The expert verdict

Running: “As well as being accessible, not to mention free (besides the shoes), running helps to increase bone density, protecting you from osteoporosis further down the track.” – Leo Savage, wellness consultant and PT

Cycling: “The saddle wins for muscle as power comes through the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Plus, DOMS will be less intense the next day.” – Melissa Power, indoor cycling coach

Read more: We tested affordable running shoes for under R400… and they work


For the cardio workout win? Cycling

Pavement purists may point to running’s superior fat-burning credentials, but cycling’s muscle-saving – and endurance-building – benefits bag it the yellow jersey. Plus, when you can kill two birds by getting your cardio on your commute – because, in all likelihood, you can cycle further than you can run – early morning treadmill sessions can jog on.

This article was originally published on womenshealthsa.co.za

Image credit: iStock

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