For those who find walking too mundane but can’t tolerate the pounding involved in running, cycling presents a good aerobic exercise middle ground. Just like walking and running, it provides all the same health benefits in terms of weight loss, improved endurance, and stronger muscles.
Calorie Burn and Weight Loss
Medical and fitness websites have consistently defined weight loss as a function of the number of calories burned. When an individual spends more calories through exercise than he or she takes in through eating, there is usually an equivalent amount of body weight lost. Depending on body weight, the intensity of performance, and one’s actual base metabolic rate, around an hour-long bike ride can expend between 400-500 calories of energy. Based on a rough estimate and computation, shedding at least one pound requires burning around 3,500 calories. That comes down to 1 hour of cycling every day to lose a pound in just one week.
One pound a week may not seem like much when compared to the crash diets being peddled around. The problem however with such diet programs is that it radically decreases the amount of calorie intake the body is used to. More often than not the body may react by actually slowing down metabolism and store more fuel sources such as carbohydrates into fat. Thus the short term benefit of losing a lot of weight quickly is easily cancelled out by weight gain a few months down the road. Losing 1 pound a week through cycling (or any other form of aerobic exercise for that matter) is a more balanced, sustainable and healthy approach to weight loss.
Other Benefits of Cycling
Along with regaining a healthy body weight, cycling offers benefits to the cardiovascular and respiratory system. Just like its other aerobic exercise counterparts – swimming, running, and walking, cycling primarily works out the heart and the lungs. It can thus improve associated functions such as blood circulation and breathing, and consequently increase endurance.
That’s not to say that cycling doesn’t build strength. The involved movements can certainly build up leg power, particularly the calf, quadriceps, and hamstring muscles. Cycling is also said to be beneficial in strengthening the abdomen and back muscles which in turn can improve balance and posture. Unlike running which is inherently a load bearing exercise, cycling can be easier on the knees and other joints. Other than the necessary basic skill of operating a bicycle, cycling can be a viable exercise for someone just getting into a more active way of life.
As previously mentioned, maintaining the right proportion between energy expenditure and consumption is important for health and weight loss. It can be tempting to overeat, thinking that the extra calories will be burned later on in a cycling session. Along with that temptation is the allure of being less conscientious about the type of food. Diet and exercise are closely linked elements. By taking one for granted, the gains of the other can be negated. It is counterproductive to keep up unhealthy eating habits and to use a developing inclination and skill in cycling as an excuse. Poor nutrition can eventually downgrade one’s performance on the bike. Thus, a balance has to be maintained, constant cycling sessions on side and whole foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains on the other.
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