Is biking aerobic or anaerobic? The question seems pretty straightforward, but for most people, the question is not as clear as it looks. The many notions about this exercise program explains why there are different answers to this question. Some people state that it is an example of a short burst of anaerobic activity, especially if one exceeds 10 mph. Others say it is purely an aerobic activity because of how it increases your breathing and heart rates. But between the two, who is correct? Perhaps it is about time we put an end to the question of whether biking is either an aerobic or anaerobic activity.
That said, here we dive into the definitions, differences, and similarities of aerobic and anaerobic activities. As a result of this discussion, we would like to classify biking into the appropriate exercise program. Additionally, we will be sharing some tips on how to start a biking exercise program and revealing the calories you can burn from this activity. Stay with us to learn the exercise category of biking and how you can adopt this regime for better health.
Is Biking Aerobic Or Anaerobic?
Before we delve into the biking categories, let us first understand the difference between aerobic vs anaerobic exercises. Below are the definitions, similarities, and differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
Aerobic exercises are better known as cardiovascular (cardio) activities or endurance exercises. These are the type of workouts that have your body muscles moving in a rhythmic and coordinated manner for a specified duration (14). They are known as aerobic as they require oxygen to generate the energy for the exercises (14).
When performing such workouts, your breathing and heart rate increases tremendously. This is because your body is working at supplying more oxygen to your body’s muscles (14). These exercises are not to be confused with anaerobic exercises.
Anaerobic exercises refer to workouts that do not involve an increase in the absorption or transportation of oxygen in your body (14). When performing these workouts, your body breaks down glucose stored in the absence of oxygen, leading to increased lactic acid in your body muscles (14).
Of course, the first difference lies in the definitions of these two exercises. As mentioned earlier, aerobic exercises are workouts that require your body to move in a coordinated manner for a specified duration. However, anaerobic exercises are workouts that involve short bursts of high-intensity activity (14).
The second difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises looks at how the body uses stored energy. In aerobic exercises, your heart and breathing rate rapidly increases to supply more oxygen to your body muscles. This action helps provide energy for these workouts.
On the flip side, anaerobic workouts break down stored glucose without additional oxygen to acquire energy (14). The third difference lies in the intensity of both movements. Anaerobic exercises involve short bursts of high-intensity activity, and they tend to be more intense than aerobic workouts (14).
Contrary to what you may think, these two workout programs are also identical in various ways. According to Medical News Today, most of their similarities arise from their health gains (14). These include:
Having a high metabolism is essential as it provides your body energy to perform various bodily functions. These include blood circulation, respiration, muscle contraction, body temperature control, brain and nerve functioning, and digestion of food and nutrients (13).
Both exercises have been deemed effective in speeding up your metabolism. Having high metabolism allows you to burn more calories, which is effective if you want to lose pounds.
Heart Muscle Strengthening
Reduced Risk Of Diseases
Aerobic and anaerobic training help boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL), better known as the ‘good’ cholesterol (9). The training also decreases your bad cholesterol levels and unhealthy triglyceride levels (9). These two are risk factors for diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, depression, and cancer (9).
Exercising using both activities can also help improve your mood. Upon doing such exercises, you feel better, which helps increase your mood, confidence, and self-esteem (9).
Both activities help improve blood circulation, as they increase your blood flow. While training with both activities, your heart pumps blood around your body faster, which helps in boosting circulation (5).
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Is Biking Aerobic Or Anaerobic?
Experts classify biking as an aerobic or cardiovascular activity (1). By looking at the explanation and concept of aerobic exercise, we can understand why biking is classified in this category.
For one, it entails moving your body in a specific rhythmic movement. Biking entails assuming a sitting position on the bike and pedaling for a specified timeline or until you reach your goal destination. Secondly, this activity increases both your heart and breathing rate. One has to prepare to breathe like a fire dragon regardless of whether one is going to cycle for thirty or sixty minutes.
There are notions that various types of biking are considered anaerobic activities. That has been shown to be false. All types of biking are classified as aerobic activities. So, whether you try stationary biking, outdoor biking, or mountain biking, the fact remains that you are undertaking a cardio activity.
What Muscles Does Biking Target?
Biking targets majority of your body muscles. Some of these include:
- The Core. If you are looking for an activity to target your core muscles, then consider biking. Your core muscles are actively engaged throughout this exercise, which helps in strengthening them (3). A strong core is vital as it helps improve balance and stability (7). It also helps prevent lower back injury (7).
- The Leg Muscles. As we all know, biking involves a lot of pedaling. This activity is essential as it helps work your leg muscles, especially your quads and hamstrings (3).
- The Glutes. Biking is an excellent activity to consider if you want to train your glutes and hips. According to WebMD, biking gives your glutes and hips a thorough workout that helps with toning these two areas (3).
How Many Calories Do You Burn Biking?
The amount of calories you burn while biking varies among different individuals. The differences arise due to factors such as your body weight and the exercising duration. The more time you spend biking, the more likely you are to burn more calories (8).
The same concept applies to intensity. If you bike at an increased speed, you will most likely burn more calories than an individual biking at a decreased rate (8). Let us take an example of an individual weighing 160 pounds (73 kg).
According to Mayo Clinic, such an individual will burn 292 calories if they are biking for one hour and at a speed of less than ten mph (8). Such a speed is pretty slow and confirmed appropriate for leisure. If the person were to increase this speed, they would burn more calories due to increased intensity.
Why Choose Biking?
Of all aerobic activities, why should you choose biking? Fair question! Here are some solid reasons as to why you should prioritize biking over other aerobic exercises like running and walking:
Increased Calorie Burn
As mentioned above, the calories you burn depend on factors such as your weight and metabolism. However, if the same individual were to perform different exercises, the calories would differ. According to Medicine Net, an individual who is biking will most likely lose more calories than one who is walking (4). Research shows that individuals who cycled to work had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who walked for the same distance (4).
Increased Benefits For Individuals With Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease refers to a chronic progressive neurological disorder whereby part of the brain gradually becomes damaged as years pass by (10). It is characterized by tremors or shaking, muscle rigidity and stiffness, and slowness of physical movements (bradykinesia) (10).
Seniors above 50 years are more vulnerable to this disease and others like dementia (10). Research indicates that fast biking or cycling can help individuals with Parkinson’s disease as it deals with movement.
According to Medical News Today research, a faster pedaling rate is directly associated with increasing the connectivity between the primary motor cortex and the posterior region of the brain thalamus (10). The rapid rate will help reduce symptoms of the disease, such as muscle rigidity and stiffness and slowness of physical movements.
Biking is an ideal cardio workout to consider if you want to get more muscular legs. It provides a low-impact exercise that thoroughly workouts your leg muscles, specifically your quadriceps and hamstrings.
Increased Heart Health Benefits
Biking has numerous heart health benefits. According to Medical News Today, this activity reduces cardiovascular disease risk and helps your body in the following ways (4):
- By strengthening your heart muscles
- By improving lung health
- Stimulating circulation
- Lowering the resting pulse rate
- Reducing fat levels in the blood
Tips To Get Started With Biking
Ready to get started with your biking exercise program? No reason to delay. Here are some essential tips to help you out:
As always, never start an exercise regime without consulting both your doctor and trainer. Regardless of whether you used to bike or not, the foundation of all exercises is consultation.
Set Realistic Goals
Let us face it. Most of us struggle with weight loss and would do anything to lose 10 or 20 pounds in one week. Most individuals implement programs that promise rapid weight loss results, such as losing 10 pounds in one week. However, according to fitness experts, this is an example of an unrealistic goal. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) advises setting realistic and healthy goals such as losing one o r two pounds a week (12).
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Consider The Biking Experience
With biking, you can choose to cycle outside or bike inside on a stationary bike. For most people, it all comes down to preference. However, others are tied down by their health conditions. Experts advise you to opt for stationary biking if you have joint, back, or knee problems (11). Again, they suggest you opt for this exercise if you worry about changing weather conditions (11).
Get The Correct Gear
You will need various equipment to get started with your biking training program. The first piece of equipment is the bike. Make sure you get the right bike size to avoid straining your back too much due to wrong fittings (3). You will also need a helmet if you have chosen outdoor biking. It is a must as it helps assure your safety. It would help if you also had padded biking shorts to help make your bike seat feel more comfortable (3). The last thing you need is a pair of gloves. This helps protect your hands from rubbing the grips (3).
Ease Into It
There is no need to pressure yourself to become a pro-biker overnight. Again, there is no pressure of hitting the one-hour exercise timeline, especially if you are new to this activity. Start by practicing how to bike correctly to help you get the hang of this exercise. If you are into outdoor biking, practice braking, shifting gears, and signaling. These are some of the techniques that will assure your safety on the road.
Create A Workout Schedule
Like any other exercise routine, you will need to develop a workout schedule detailing when you are to bike. Such a schedule gives you exercise discipline and commitment. Make sure you incorporate rest days to give your body muscles enough time to recover and grow. In a week, try and get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (8).
Biking, mainly outdoor biking, can be intimidating, especially if you are a beginner. The best way to go about it is by recruiting your friends or family members. Such local or known support will boost your confidence and help you stick to the exercise program. Alternatively, you could sign up for a beginner’s biking lesson at your local bike shop or hire a trainer if you need any help (6).
The Bottom Line
Is biking aerobic or anaerobic? This activity is one example of an aerobic exercise. It ranks under this category because of its defined rhythmic movement and its nature of increasing your breathing and heart rates.
Biking is an overall better aerobic activity as it increases your calorie burn and heart health functions. The activity is also effective for building more muscular legs and benefiting seniors with Parkinson’s disease.
Remember to consult before adding this activity to your workout plan. After getting the green light, make sure you get the right gear, create a workout schedule, and set practical goals. Similarly, consider recruiting your friends and easing your way into the program. Adhering to all these will help you get the most from this activity while still having fun.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Aerobic exercise (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Biking (2020, webmd.com)
- Biking or Walking to Work Helps Keep You Fit (2016, medicinenet.com)
- Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cycle your way to better health (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Exercise and Physical Fitness (2021, medlineplus.gov)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Fast Cycling Benefits Parkinson’s Disease (2012, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Fitness Basics: The Exercise Bike Is Back (2006, webmd.com)
- Losing Weight (2020, cdc.gov)
- Metabolism (2021, medlineplus.gov)
- What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)