Jogging vs cycling: Which is better for fitness?

Doing a mix of both activities is ideal for improving fitness. PHOTOS | SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Both cycling and running have their advantages, depending on your individual fitness needs.

Jogging and cycling are some of the world's most popular and well-studied aerobic exercises. 

They are both intense cardio exercises and cardio is known for its ability to promote fitness when done regularly and combined with a healthy diet. It helps you lose weight and keep it off, increases stamina over time and promotes heart and lung  health, among other benefits. 

Also,  both exercises get your heart pumping, are great for burning calories and are trusted at building strength. The question is, which is better at promoting fitness? To answer this question, we look at the benefits of each. 

Benefits of jogging

•One of the biggest benefits of jogging is that it utilises more of your muscles than cycling because it is tougher. Your heart and lungs work harder to provide more oxygen to more muscles. This is why jogging burns between 566 and 839 calories per hour, according to studies. Jogging not only works your legs, but it also forces your core muscles, biceps and general upper body to get activated.

•Do you have a stubborn beer belly? High-intensity jogging is known to reduce stubborn belly fat. Jogging has been shown to significantly increase your metabolism and reduce belly fat. This is very beneficial because excess belly fat can put you at a greater risk for certain health issues like heart disease.

•Puts “good stress” on your body and helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. One study found that stress-bearing physical activity, such as jogging, protects your musculoskeletal system more than exercise that is not weight-bearing, such as cycling.

•Helps strengthen your heart because jogging heavily activates your heart. The heart just has to step up its game to pump more oxygen into your body. Cardio exercise, such as jogging and cycling, teaches your heart to pump even more efficiently before, during and after your workouts. Better circulation helps to heal wounds faster, keeps your brain sharp and even gives your complexion a more refreshing, natural look.

•Helps tone your muscles. Jogging works your whole body and burns more calories. As such, you can develop a well-toned body by jogging for a long time without reaching muscle fatigue. Or you can run slower for longer stretches to help you achieve that toned look. 

Benefits of cycling

•Cycling is a low-impact exercise compared to jogging. It allows regular rests because while it takes work to go uphill on a bicycle, it demands no energy to go downhill, a benefit not associated with jogging. It is a great activity for those just starting their fitness journey. 

•Because it is a low-impact workout, cycling is a great alternative to jogging if you have a knee or leg injury. It puts much less weight on the injured leg, especially if you keep it in flat lands where there are no hills to put too much weight on the leg.

•In comparison to jogging, cycling is a less intense exercise.  It burns an estimated 488-738 calories per hour. Cycling burns some serious calories, but not as much as jogging. Studies have shown that incorporating sprint and strength training with regular cycling can temporarily boost metabolism levels while building muscle, allowing you to burn even more calories.

•Strengthens legs. By targeting your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, cycling not only strengthens your leg muscles but also improves overall function in your lower body.

•Improve cardiovascular health. According to one study, indoor cycling had a positive effect on total cholesterol, boosting HDL (good) cholesterol levels while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

•Boost your mental health and brain power. Cycling has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and ease feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety by triggering the release of your body’s natural painkillers and mood-enhancing biochemicals, according to research in the journal PLoS One.

Balance, posture

•Improve your balance, posture, and coordination. Whether cycling indoors, like on a Peloton Bike, or cycling outdoors, it forces you to stabilise your body, thus improving your overall balance, coordination, and posture. All of this can help decrease your risk of injury as you age.

•Help prevent or manage some health concerns. By cycling regularly, you avoid a sedentary lifestyle and the health concerns that often accompany it. Research shows that regular exercise can reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure. In a 2021 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that cycling was associated with a 35 per cent lower mortality risk among people with diabetes.

Having seen the benefits of each, it is clear that jogging is a far more high-intensity exercise than cycling and, therefore, is suitable for relatively fitter people, while cycling is suitable for people who are starting or people who are not as fit. They both do wonders to the body nonetheless.