Regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do for their health. This may include a variety of different exercises, and biking is a great option.
Doctors recommend a person perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity every week.
The number of calories a person burns when biking depends on many factors, including:
- the type of bike
- a person’s weight and height
Typically, the more a person weighs, the more calories they will burn per minute while biking.
Exercise physiologists estimate how many calories a person burns during physical activity with a measurement known as metabolic equivalent of task.
This article explains how many calories a person can burn while biking.
A person’s basal metabolic rate is the rate at which their body burns calories to sustain them. This includes the calories needed for breathing, circulation, and other essential functions.
In contrast, active calories are the number of calories a person burns while active and exercising.
Biking is a type of aerobic exercise, known informally as cardio. As such, it will raise a person’s heart rate and breathing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the target heart rate during moderate-intensity activities is about 64–76% of a person’s maximum heart rate. During vigorous physical exercise, a person should aim for around 77–93% of their maximum heart rate.
The term aerobic refers to oxygen, which a person takes in by breathing. Aerobic exercise can help keep a person’s heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy.
When a person exercises, their body uses oxygen to convert fats and sugars into a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy-carrying molecule that cells use to power their processes because it can release energy quickly.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the human body expends approximately 5 calories of energy to consume every 1 liter of oxygen.
The more oxygen a person breathes during physical activity, the more calories they burn.
If a person’s breathing and heart rate are noticeably faster, but they can still carry on a conversation while biking, this likely indicates moderate-intensity exercise.
Here is how many calories a person may burn if they bike at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes:
- a 125-pound (56.7 kg) person may burn 210–240 calories
- a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person may burn 260–298 calories
- a 185-pound (83.9 kg) person may burn 311–355 calories
If a person is breathing too hard and fast to hold a conversation while biking, and their heart rate substantially increases, this would be considered high-intensity exercise.
Typically, the faster a person’s speed, the more intense the exercise, and the more calories they may burn. This is due to the increased energy required for the body to make the bike go faster.
Here is the estimated number of calories people of different weights burn biking vigorously for 30 minutes:
- a 125-pound (56.7 kg) person may burn 300–495 calories
- a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person may burn 372–614 calories
- a 185-pound (83.9 kg) person may burn 444–733 calories
Stationary biking burns slightly fewer calories than outdoor biking. However, many people may find it is a convenient alternative that suits their lifestyle.
According to Harvard University, a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person riding a stationary bicycle at a moderate pace for 30 minutes burns 260 calories, while vigorous biking burns 391 calories in the same time.
Indoor stationary biking has several benefits. It may help those who need to schedule their exercise time. Spin classes at the gym, which use stationary bikes, could be a suitable option.
Another reason a person may prefer indoor biking is the time of day they tend to exercise. Biking outdoors when it is dark may be more dangerous.
Outdoor biking, on the other hand, comes with its own benefits and disadvantages.
Outdoor biking can potentially be more dangerous than stationary biking, due to other road or trail users.
However, people can use outdoor biking as a means of transportation and exercise, as they commute by bike to work or school. This can help motivate a person to maintain their exercise routine and may save money on transport.
According to Harvard University, a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person biking outdoors at a moderate pace of 12–13.9 mph (19.3–22.4 km per hour) for 30 minutes may burn about 298 calories.
If they are cycling at 20 mph (32.2 km per hour) or more, they may burn about 614 calories or more.
One benefit of cycling over other exercise is that a person can do it at their own intensity.
For example, they can start with a low-intensity workout when recovering from injury or illness, and build up to more demanding physical activity as they progress.
A person may also burn more calories biking over more challenging terrain, such as hilly areas, than riding on a flat surface or using a stationary bike.
Biking offers benefits other than burning calories.
Some of the many health benefits of frequent cycling may include:
- improved cardiovascular fitness
- increased muscle strength and flexibility
- increased joint mobility
- lower stress levels
- improved posture and coordination
- strengthened bones
- lower levels of body fat
- prevention or management of some diseases
- reduced anxiety and depression
Biking is a suitable way to perform low-impact exercise. Running may exert a high impact on the joints and knees, and can potentially lead to injuries, such as shin splints, while biking has a lower risk.
Biking can also be an easy way to fit in 30 minutes of exercise a day, especially if a person already uses a bicycle to commute.
The number of calories a person burns from biking depends on a range of factors.
Regardless of what type of biking a person chooses, cycling is a low-impact exercise that can help burn calories and increase general fitness.