Why running is better than cycling


Paavo Nurmi at the 1920 Olympics

I could go on and on and on about running, and why it is such a great exercise, if not the best. To further illustrate how great it is, I thought I’d compare it to another endurance cardio exercise, cycling. According to
Participation in road cycling vs running is associated with lower bone mineral density in men:

Cyclists were 7 times more likely to have osteopenia of the spine than runners, controlling for age, body weight, and bone-loading history. There were no group differences in serum markers of bone turnover. Based on the results of this study, current bone loading is an important determinant of whole-body and lumbar spine BMD. Therefore, bone-loading activity should be sustained during adulthood to maintain bone mass.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that cycling is “bad” for you, it just means that running is better for maintaining bone density, which can help prevent fractures. This is because running is a weight-bearing exercise, and cycling isn’t. All that pounding into the ground stimulates bone mineralization and muscle strength. In experienced runners, their legs have adapted to all this pounding.

If you can’t run due to injuries, jumping rope or T’ai Chi can have similar benefits. If you’re a cyclist, there’s no reason to give it up, just occasionally cross-train with running or other weight-bearing exercises.


4 responses to “Why running is better than cycling

  1. Mixing it up is always good and should include some type of weight bearing exercises too.

  2. I cycled when I was injured to try and maintain aerobic fitness. No matter how fast or hard I spin my legs, cycling never gives me the same satisfaction as a good run…

    I wonder, what is the difference between sedentary people and cyclists, i.e. does cycling have any bearing on the measures studied?

    • It’s been a while since I’ve gone cycling, but I remember it being as fun as running, especially when going downhill. That’s a good question you asked. I honestly don’t know the answer. According to this –

      “Cyclists tend to have lower bone density than runners, weight lifters, even sedentary people, says University of Missouri researcher Pamela Hinton.” http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/injury-prevention/lessons-lab

      I’m not sure how trustworthy this source is. I would have assumed that cyclists had better bone density than sedentary people, but if this source is right then I was wrong. I would have thought that any exercise is better than no exercise for bone density . Then again, obese people tend to have greater bone density than slim people because their bones need to be stronger to support all that extra weight.

      Besides cross-training with running, cyclists could also strength-train to improve bone density in their legs and elsewhere, as Simplelivingover50 already noted. Good luck on your next race!

      • Thanks! Yeah, I would have naturally assumed cycling to be better than being sedentary, but I never considered the impact of excess weight… I suppose it’s therefore particularly important for people who are predominently cyclists to incorporate weight training

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