Cardio Throwdown: Bike vs. Treadmill



Heading to the gym for a cardio session?

If you're wondering which machine will give you the biggest return on the time you invest, that depends on your goals.

We break down two of the most popular machines: the bike and the treadmill. 

For a muscle building workout 

The bike uses your quads and glutes as well as the hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and shin muscles to create the pedaling motion. Your quads are used to push down on the pedals so if you increase your gears, the extra force required will add serious resistance, which you already know is necessary for building muscle.

For best results, the American Council on Exercise advises setting resistance at a level that prevents you from cycling faster than 60 revolutions per minute. That way the hamstrings and quads will have to work extra hard at keeping you "moving forward".

If you’re looking to work your lower legs even more deeply, mix in some intervals! As an added bonus, stand and pedal during the intervals. 

For a weight loss focused workout 

You might feel like a hamster on a wheel but using a treadmill puts your whole body to work, not just your lower half.

The act of propelling your body weight forward requires a lot of effort so your body will burn calories at a higher rate.

Over the course of an hour, a 165lb person will burn approximately 565 calories walking briskly and will torch 700-800 calories if on an incline. Running will torch 800-1000 calories.

Even if you’re just starting out with a treadmill walk, it’s best to mix up your pace. Research at Ohio State University found walking at varying speeds can burn up to 20% more calories compared to maintaining a steady pace. 

For a low impact, high-intensity workout  

The bike has seen an increase in popularity thanks to the growing trend of spin classes.

The varying tempo of a spin class nukes calories. Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology found doing interval training on a bike, the way you would in a spin class, burns fat 36% faster and improves your cardiovascular fitness by 13% compared to plodding along at the same pace. You’ll benefit from toned legs, improved lung capacity and powerful heart geared for longevity. Moreover, one hour of cycling can burn between 250-700 calories.

If you’re after more speed though, don’t pedal too fast. Research at Oxford University, UK, found going at 110 revolutions per minute means only 40% of your effort will go into driving the bike forward, and the other 60% will be used trying to spin your legs quicker. 

The bike is also better than the treadmill when it comes to impact and looking after your joints. Running can put stress on your spine, hips, knee, and ankle joints, whereas the bike is the perfect exercise machine choice for anyone with dodgy knees. It gives you a good cardiovascular workout without stressing weight-bearing joints.

Variety is Key  

Regardless of the cardio machine you use, the key to success is variety. By varying the equipment, you keep your body guessing and progressing!

*Stats based on findings from studies referenced in this article



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