Cycling and running are very similar sports as far as the cardiovascular system goes. They are both a lot of fun, have a huge following, use very similar muscles, and are two of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise ever. It is very challenging to compare them, although both simple forms of movement can produce very different outcomes.
This article will explain how many miles you would find yourself cycling to gain the equivalent of running for a single mile. It’s quite complicated as there are many different factors to this argument.
The best way to do this is first to find a way to measure each activity, break down each sport, then run through external factors. At the end of this, we can give you a decent figure.
One thing that running and cycling both have in common is they are cardiovascular exercises. The cardiovascular system is the process of getting fresh blood around the body.
You can judge how hard this system is working on heart rate, which is the amount of time your heart will beat in a single minute. The more it beats, the more blood that needs to flow around the body to fuel and flush the muscles.
The cardiovascular system relies on calories to work. Hence when you go cycling or running, you typically burn more calories than if you were watching TV. This is because the heart rate is much higher, and the body needs fuel. So this being said is a good way to judge the intensity of how hard you’re working.
Obviously, the amount of calories we burn depends on many things, such as our weight, height, muscle mass, and many other things. As a rough estimate though, a typical experienced fit runner will need about 100 calories to run a mile. Now we know how many calories it takes to run a mile, we need to work out what this would equate to in cycling.
Obviously, there are a lot of outside factors that affect figures like this, but typically you burn 50 calories per mile. So to burn 100 calories, it will take two miles of cycling. This is surprisingly much more than people think, as cycling feels much easier than running.
If you want to cycle the equivalent energy of running, you will typically will have to double the amount on distance. For example;
1 Mile Running (100 Calories) = 2 Miles Cycling (100 Calories)
Although this equation is a good general guide for short distances, we do not believe that this works the same for longer distances. A good example is 26 miles of running which is about a marathon that typically feels much harder than 52 miles of cycling.
Running and cycling are very different sports, and generally, although they both are cardiovascular exercises, they have a very different effects on the body, and it’s vital to speak about that.
Running is a very high impact sport compared to cycling. As you repetitively hit the floor, a lot more pressure goes through your body. Although you can have very cushioned shoes and be running on grass or trails, it does feel harder because there’s more stress and pressure on all your joints and ligaments.
Then you have cycling, a very low impact sport, which is much less aggressive on the joints compared to running. The motion is much smoother, and although you are working the cardiovascular system to a similar level, you don’t put as much strain on the body.
When you’re running, you have to use your arms and core a lot more than if you are cycling. It requires more of the body to move and also a lot more motion to push forward. When it comes to cycling, you tend to use your legs a lot more, and although still working, less of your upper body has to move.
It is easy to work at a lower pace when cycling because the motion is smooth and very controlled. When it comes to running, you typically work at a higher pace. This is because it’s difficult to be between a walk and a run, and running does take a lot of effort because you are driving forward constantly.
When you’re out riding, and you climb a big hill on the way down, you do have an option to rest and let the heart rate come down. If you are running, you don’t have this ability. The only way to rest is to stop completely or walk. So running is harder because there’s no escaping the constant work, unlike cycling, where you can rest downhill or on flats.
Although it sounds like a simple equation, for every mile you run to achieve the same result, you will need to cycle double the amount. There are so many outside factors that affect this, such as;
- Location your running or cycling
- Course Elevation
- Type of bike you’re using
- Your fitness and personal ability
- Wind and weather
With all these outside factors, this can completely change this equation from you needing to cycle three miles to burn the same running calories, or many if the hill is steep enough, you might be one for one.
Cycling and running are very different sports. We recommend getting an activity watch if you want to understand how hard you’re working in your workouts. Anything like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch will be able to tell you how hard you’re working no matter what sport you’re doing.