By bike or on foot?
If you’re into either running or cycling, chances are you have a firm view on which is better. Even if you’re into triathlons, it’s likely you prefer one over the other. This week, we’ve asked the experts.
Research shows by switching from driving your car to work to cycling will have you living between three months and 14 months longer. Cycling also reduces your risk of heart attack, cancer, type 2 diabetes and hypertension and improves mental health, according to Exercise and Sports Science Australia spokesperson Vanessa Rice.
While Dr Rice advises which exercise is better depends on what you enjoy and what you feel confident with, cycling is a good choice if you’re out of shape. “If you are overweight and closer to the inactive level on the activity spectrum, then low-to-moderate intensity activity will be a safe, more effective choice, ” Dr Rise says.
Cycling is lower impact than running and therefore gentler on your joints. “If you are someone who avoids activity then changing your mode of transport to cycling for a trip to the shops may be a good starting point to increase your physical activity, ” she says.
If your goal is weight loss, try cycling to work. You’ll not only burn some extra calories you will also reduce your environmental footprint. “If you are a busy mum, wife, or employee, then incorporating a bike ride in with the family on the weekends will be a good healthy choice for not only you but the family, ” Dr Rice says.
If you’re looking to drop a few extra kilos, be warned an occasional ride around the block isn’t going to get big results. “To burn calories, it must be at a fast pace and not a leisurely ride, ” Dr Rice cautions.
While cycling is low impact for joints, it is actually not a good activity for bone health. “If you want to maintain and build strong bones then cycling must be interspersed with other high-impact activities such as weight training, jogging/running, or skipping, ” Dr Rice says.
Dr Rice says any activity that increases your heart rate for a sustained period of time, like running, has benefits for cardiovascular health.
“Cardiovascular activity has many health benefits including strengthening of the heart muscle itself, which makes it pump more efficiently and makes it stronger so that it doesn’t have to pump as often or as hard at rest to move the blood around the body.”
Running also increases the good cholesterols in the blood and helps balance our metabolic systems, according to Dr Rice. “It helps to burn energy for the promotion of weight loss and it has been reported to have beneficial effects in the prevention of certain cancers, ” she says.
The best news is that running or jogging is categorised as a “vigorous” fitness activity, so it’s a great choice if your primary goal is burning body fat. Dr Rice says the time it takes to achieve key health benefits is much shorter than for other activities, such as cycling. “For individuals who might be time poor, a run for 20 minutes will provide the same health benefits as a 30-minute walk.”
While running will help your body get stronger, it’s important not to do too much too soon — particularly if your fitness level isn’t up to scratch.
“Applying too much load too quickly will increase the risk of injury, ” Dr Rice says.
Which is better?
Running is good for:
- People with moderate to advanced fitness levels
- Weight loss
- Stronger bones
- People with busy schedules
Cycling is good for:
- Newcomers to exercise
- Improved coordination
- Reduced impact on joints
- Getting the whole family active
© The West Australian
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