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Bicycle Riding for Weight Loss

By Paula Stephens, M.A.

Riding a bike is one of the childhood joys you can carry with you no matter how old you get. It's an excellent form of nonimpact exercise that will build your aerobic conditioning as well as strengthen and tone your lower body. To benefit from riding a bike, you don't have to have Lance Armstrong aspirations; you simply need a bike that fits your riding style and a helmet to get started. Combine that with the fundamental principles of weight loss and you're on your way.

Benefits of Cycling

One of the greatest benefits of cycling is that most anyone can do it for an extended period of time because it is not a weight-bearing exercise. In other words, cycling is joint friendly. Using your bike for exercise is a great option if you are limited because of osteoarthritis in your knees, hips or back. And Unlike running, in which beginners have to stop and rest, biking allows you to exercise long enough that you are able to burn a significant number of calories from the start.

Calories Burned

The most important factor in the battle to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit so that your body has to use its fat stores for energy. By increasing your activity level, you will burn more calories each day. The Calorie Burned calculator on the Health Status website estimates that a 150-pound person would burn between 150 and 300 calories by doing a casual 30-minute bike ride. Be sure when you bike you are riding in a way that makes you slightly breathless. This will ensure you are working hard enough to lose weight. The number of calories you burn is determined by your weight, gender and lean body mass.

How Much, How Long

Using bicycle riding to help you lose weight can be quite simple. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Moderate intensity would be a 7 or 8 on a 1 to 10 perceived exertion scale, and vigorious would be close to a 9 on that same scale. The harder you work, the more calories you will burn. Your goal should be to burn around 3,500 calories a week.

Types of Bikes

There are many types of bikes, but finding one that fits your riding style and goals will be as simple as a trip to your local bike shop. Consider what type of rider you will be. Determine if you prefer to ride on pavement or on trails, if your route will include hills or keep you on a level ground. Maybe you see yourself training for a long road ride or a triathlon. Once you've determined these factors, the person at the bike shop can help you get a bike that is perfect for you. Regardless of the type of bike you get, be sure to purchase a quality well-fitted helmet. Getting a bike that fits your needs will help ensure that you stick with the program longer and thus losing more weight.

Convenience of Biking

The best part about adding biking as a way to lose weight is the simple convenience of it. Biking is an excellent way to commute around your neighborhood, to work or to run small errands. More and more cities are becoming bike friendly, and bike paths are more common than ever. By biking on simple errands, you burn more calories doing something you would do anyway. Commuting to and from work allows you to blend your healthy lifestyle into your daily routine without excessive disruption in your workday. Adding cycling to your life and as a way to support your weight loss goals is a great choice.

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Brought to you by LIVESTRONG
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