In the glamorous world of workouts, exercises are divided into either aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Both forms of exercise are essential to your overall health and fitness.
However, if you’re a biking enthusiasts or you’re considering taking it up, you might have wondered whether biking is aerobic or anaerobic exercise. We’ll get into that later on.
First, let’s critically examine the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your heart rate. It also involves continuous and rhythmic muscle movements over an extended period of time, which improves your lung’s capacity and the efficiency of your cardiovascular system.
Aerobic exercise promotes cardiovascular health, which includes lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The goal with aerobic exercise is to increase your heart rate in order to get the most out of the body’s oxygen usage.
In general, it’s safe for most people to do at least some aerobic exercise every day, which can help you shed pounds and lower your risk of diabetes and other conditions.
Aerobic exercises also helps you sleep better and improve your mood.
The most popular aerobic activities are running and cycling – two forms of cardiovascular exercise where people use their legs for power instead of their arms like they would when swimming or using an elliptical machine.
For best results with aerobic exercises, aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking or water aerobics. You can break this up into three 30-minute workouts each week if that’s more convenient for you.
What is Anaerobic Exercise?
The University of Michigan Medicine notes that strength and speed activities like weightlifting and sprinting are examples of anaerobic exercises because they don’t make your heart beat faster.
Instead, they only break a sweat by using the phosphagen system for energy – which is very limited. You also might feel like you can’t breathe! Only do one or two sets of such high-intensity exercises (e.g., fewer than 5) before taking a rest break; otherwise, you may risk cramps and fatigue.
Strength training at the gym will burn calories and build muscle mass, but it is not aerobic activity.
Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen.’ Anaerobic exercise provides energy for short bursts of intense activity and can increase muscular strength and endurance.
There are two types of anaerobic exercise.
1. Isometric Exercise is when the skeletal muscles contract but no visible movement occurs, e.g., you are pushing or pulling against something that’s not moving.
2. Isotonic Exercise which involves the contraction and extension of muscle groups without any change in the length of those muscles involved, e.g., you push or pull on an object with a fixed resistance, like weightlifting or doing sit-ups to strengthen your core muscles
This form of workout is best for improving strength and tone, as well as enhancing bone health because it targets large muscle groups in the body such as the biceps, triceps, thighs, buttocks, chest muscles and abdominal.
Is Biking Aerobic or Anaerobic?
There are two schools of thought on whether biking is strictly aerobic or anaerobic activity.
The answer lies in how you pedal-if you’re making an effort to push up with your legs, then it is considered aerobically challenging.
Cycling a bike aerobically is when you pedal your bicycle in an efficient and steady fashion, with minimal exertion.
One of the most popular ways to cycle a bike aerobically is by using the heart rate monitor on your wrist to measure how hard you’re working out.
American College of Sports Medicine recommends that cyclists work their way up from aerobic exercise to more intense workouts, so if you’re just beginning this type of activity it’s important that you don’t overdo it or else injuries may occur. As always, consult with your physician before starting any new workout routine!
The most important thing to remember when doing aerobic cycling is to keep pedaling at the same rate of speed throughout your workout session.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re riding your bicycle as fast as possible, pedaling very rapidly and using strength to power through hills – this is called interval training, which results in short bursts of high-intensity energy. If you do this for more than two minutes, it’s considered anaerobic activity (not good for burning calories).
Also, if you cycle with the sole intention of building leg muscles, then it is anaerobic activity.
Both aerobic and anaerobic activities provide benefits such as burning calories to help you lose weight or maintain your ideal body mass index (BMI).
However, only aerobic activity will improve your cardiovascular system and decrease body fat levels. The trick is finding a workout plan that mixes both types of exercises together so you get the most out of every minute spent working up a sweat. So go ahead: hop on your bike and pedal with purpose!
- Anaerobic exercise increases strength and speed which includes weightlifting, sprinting.
- Aerobic exercise uses oxygen for energy, like running or biking.
Both types of activity provide benefits such as burning calories to help you lose weight or maintain your ideal body mass index (BMI).
However, only aerobic activity will improve your cardiovascular system and decrease body fat levels. The trick is finding a workout plan that mixes both types of exercises together so you get the most out of every minute spent working up a sweat. So go ahead: hop on your bike and pedal away.
To make sure you don’t overdo it on the bike (and risk injury), there are some things you should know before starting out:
- You’ll want to start with an easy ride that lasts around two hours or less
- It’s important not be too hard on yourself when biking for the first time; if at any point during your ride you feel lightheaded or nauseous stop immediately. Your body needs time to adjust to the new demands you’re putting on it.
- You don’t want to lose interest after one or two sessions either – so you might want to try biking with a group of friends or joining a local cycling club, which will allow you to ride at your own pace and experiment with different routes. The key is to find something you’ll enjoy doing!
What Muscles Does Riding a Bike Target?
Riding a bike targets the whole body. It especially focuses on the thighs and calves, but also works the arms and upper back as well.
Riding a bike causes you to use your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, abductors and even your pectorals. The other muscles that are used when riding a bike include the rotator cuff muscles of your shoulders, which hold up your arms as you cycle along efficiently.
The other muscles that become engaged when riding a bike include those secondary shoulder muscles called “the trapezius” muscles – both the upper traps and middle traps as well as those lower traps in addition to those big strong scapular stabilizers known as your rhomboids.”
As with any kind of activity, you want to make sure you start out slow and work your way up.
Also remember that nutrition is important for muscle strength and growth and energy and endurance. If you already ride a bike regularly, congratulations!
How Many Calories Do You Burn When Riding a Bike?
The amount of calories you can burn when riding a bike depends on a number of factors.
- Body size and composition
- Distance traveled
- Incline or hill grade
- Approach to workout – eg how many days a week for what time durations, etc…
All of these factors will play into how much caloric energy is required for each individual. For this reason, it is impossible to give an exact number of calories burned per minute or mile traveled during cycling unless you know all relevant information specific to that individual.
For instance, someone who bikes three times a week for 20 minutes might be burning more calories than someone who bikes five times a week for 10 minutes each day over the course of the entire year.
Addressing both the duration and frequency of exercise is important to consider when trying to evaluate your caloric expenditure from cycling in comparison with others.
Also, your rate of caloric expenditure will increase the faster or longer you ride.
Why You Should Ride Your Bike More Often
There are many health benefits to cycling. Cycling provides a low-impact workout for your heart and lungs, which is great for people with joint pain or injuries who cannot participate in other forms of physical activity.
Biking has also been shown to increase muscle mass in some areas better than walking or running, though it does not provide as much total body fitness as jogging or using an elliptical machine at the gym.
Unfortunately, people who cycle to stay fit often face the dilemma of whether their activity is aerobic or anaerobic.
So which is it? Is cycling aerobic or anaerobic? The answer depends on how you ride your bike.
Let’s take a look at the physiological effects of riding your bike for transport and fitness, as well as some training tips that can help you find out just how aerobically challenging biking can be for you.
On a purely physical level, pedaling your bike is an anaerobic activity and builds muscle strength and endurance.
Your muscles produce energy in two ways: through aerobic respiration, or breaking down glucose without oxygen to create ATP molecules that provide quick bursts of energy; and through anaerobic respiration, which uses glycogen to quickly break down glucose into lactic acid. This process produces energy for short periods of time, but leaves the muscles exhausted until they can rebuild glycogen stores by burning fat instead.
Sustained cycling requires constant pedaling at a moderate pace through aerobic respiration to keep up with the body’s demand for sufficient energy production.
When you pedal too slowly or stop pedaling altogether, your body relies on anaerobic respiration to power your muscles.
Your heart rate will increase in order to send more oxygenated blood to the muscles demanding it, and you may begin breathing heavily in response.
Warm-Up for Biking
Warm up before biking by pedaling slowly for five minutes with slight resistance on the pedals. This stimulates the muscles used while cycling without straining them so you can get accustomed to what they feel like when working hard.
Pedal very lightly throughout the rest of your workout at a moderate pace that allows you to speak short sentences comfortably while riding. If you’re not sure if your effort is aerobic or not, just talk out loud about how tired you are
It’s time to find out! Cycling is one of the best ways to stay in shape and increase your fitness levels, but there are two schools of thought on whether it is strictly aerobic or anaerobic activity. The answer lies in how you pedal-if you’re making an effort
Perhaps most importantly, cycling allows you to enjoy the outdoors while getting fit!
We hope this article helped you answer the question on whether biking is an aerobic or anaerobic exercise. If not, we want to hear from you in the comments!
We would love to help clarify any misconceptions and get a discussion going about how biking can be both types of exercises depending on your intensity level.
Please share with us what type of bike rider you are – do you prefer a leisurely ride around town after work? Or maybe your favorite pastime includes long distance rides up steep hills? Share below so that others know what they’re getting themselves into before trying it for themselves!