Cycling at a moderate pace an average-sized person will use up around 596 calories for every hour they pedal. That’s based on stats published by the Med School at Harvard.
Let’s expand on this some.
In the first place, we’ll take a look at a secondary source of research to double-check the figures, in this case, stats from the State of Wisconsin’s Dept. of Health Services. Their research shows that an identical ‘standard’ person who is pedaling along at the same pace, will use up 563 calories for every hour they’re moving.
Great news: Similar quantities of calories burnt are given by both of these groups.
Taking the definition in our first sentence above:
- “Moderate cycling” means cycling outside on roads or other fairly smooth paved surfaces, like roads
- Speed of 12-13.9 mph (19-22 kph)
- BMX or mountain biking are excluded as these are more strenuous full-bodied workouts that use up more calories (as we’ll see in a moment)
So, if you go slower than 12mph you’ll burn less calories per hour. But, if you go faster (14mph+) you can burn more.
An “average-sized person” is taken to mean someone weighing in at 155 pounds (70 kilograms). A person who weighs more will burn more calories per hour as they exercise. A person weighing less will burn fewer calories.
Can you increase the number of calories you burn per hour cycling?
Short answer = Yes!
It’s an obvious point, but worth mentioning again. Attempting to lose fat through physical activity alone will only get you halfway. Team up physical activity with a sensible program of eating, however, and you can be on to a winner.
Make sure you speak to your health pro or physician prior to changing anything or if you have underlying health issues.
The good news is that you can really burn A HUGE AMOUNT of calories by bicycling. The even better news is that there are a whole host of easy methods to really increase the number of calories burnt per hour of cycling.
Let’s look at a few of these now.
Freewheeling = bad
Cycling burns calories, but only when you’re pedaling. That’s obvious, I know, but it’s easy to kid ourselves that we’re spinning the pedals all the time when we’re out on the bike. The truth is that, actually, there’ll be lots of periods when we’re not pedaling at all.
Here’s a few examples:
- Coming up to a Stop sign or red light and slowing down
- Coasting downhill
- Taking a breather on a long flat straight
If you flip that around by taking those chances to keep the pedals turning, you’ll easily be able to increase the calories you’re burning up every hour. You can start gently with this new approach. First, make sure that you try and keep your legs pedaling whenever you’re moving on the bike – you don’t even need to apply much force to begin with, just keep them turning. As you get fitter, you can push harder and really up the burn rate.
I mentioned this briefly earlier. Mountain bikers use more calories per hour than road cyclists.
Look at the calories used every hour for these two forms of pedaling and you’ll see a marked difference. An average-sized cyclist will use up around 6% more calories when they’re on the trails vs the roads.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? If you think about trail-riding it tends to be a workout for the entire body – it takes more effort to keep your balance as you go round the twists and turns. On the roads, cycling is much more steady. The leg muscles are doing most of the work and your upper body, whilst still helping with balance, has an easier time of it.
Less calories are burnt when you’re engaging fewer muscles.
Carpe diem – seize (every moment) of the day
If you’re cycling, you’re burning calories. It’s really simple.
So, can you add more cycling into your day?
How about this. If you’re a weekend-only rider just now (and a car commuter on a weekday) try changing it up a little.
Assuming your workplace is a half-hour commute by bicycle and you work Monday through Friday. Try leaving the car at home and hopping on the bike instead. Amazingly, this will use up around 3000 calories, in addition to the cycling you (still) do on the weekend. How cool is that?
Embrace your sociable side
I get it, riding on your own can be a little challenging sometimes. Walking up the hills rather than forcing yourself to pedal. Or getting out of bed at all when the rain is pouring and the wind is raging.
It’s much different (and easier, I think) when you’re cycling with someone else by your side. If you’ve promised to go cycling with them then you have to get out and ride (even if it’s cold and wet). And you have to keep pedaling on those hills if they’re still pedaling.
Tough, yes, but it means that you get nearer your goals by burning up more calories.
At the top of the page, we saw that pedaling at a ‘moderate speed’ will use up 596 calories per hour.
What happens when you go faster?
The great news is that the faster you go the more calories you burn:
- 14-15.9mph = an extra 25% more calories burnt per hour of cycling
- 16-19mph = 50% more calories
- 20mph+ = 100% more calories!
Now, you may not be able to maintain these higher speeds for the full duration of your cycle (yet!) But, the more often you go cycling, the fitter you’ll get and the greater the periods of time that you will be able to.
Can cycling change your body? Yes! And here’s what that looks like
What can you achieve by cycling? It’s a question that you’re probably thinking about right now if you’re considering a weight-loss journey and exercise program.
Watch this YouTube and you’ll see the incredible results that one woman that when she completely changed her body through cycling. And her life.
You can do it too.
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