If you are not able to get to the gym, or if you want to make the most of the spring and summer weather, you might be thinking about exploring a new form of exercise, where you can spend more time outdoors. Cycling is hugely popular and can take you from road to track and trail, so in this blog we look at the question: does cycling burn belly fat? And we look at more health benefits of cycling as exercise.

Cycling to lose belly fat

Burning belly fat by training your core is not easy. It improves building muscle and strenght your core but it does not help removing fat in that particular area. The best way to lose belly fat is by doing cardio workouts, such as running and cycling. The reason for this is that you need to burn calories to lose belly fat instead of training your muscles. Lower-intensity and high duration training burns more fat than shorter high intensity workouts. You will burn between 400 and 1000 calories per hour when cycling, depending on your weight and how hard you are working

Cycling is therefore a good option to lose weight. But that's not only because of the calories you burn, it also affects your basal metabolic rate and muscle mass. As you push down or pull up on the pedals you are meeting resistance so you will be building muscle. Building muscle then increases the rate at which you burn calories, so it makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Other benefits of cycling

Besides burning belly fat, cycling has a lot of other benefits for your health. The physical and methal health benefits of cycling are as followed:

  • Reduce risk of chronic diseases
  • Reduse risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Reducing stress
  • Better sleep
  • Improves Subjective Mood
  • It's a Low impact training
  • Way to build your muscles
  • Way to control weight

Physical Health benefits of cycling

Cycling is a great way to get your heart pumping and to work those mighty thigh muscles. Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, like going for a cycle, each week will help to reduce your risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and high blood pressure. Besides these medical diseases, cycling also improves balance and coordination which is beneficial in the prevention of falls and fractures.

For many people, cycling is also a great alternative to running because it's a low impact training. If you have found running causes problems with joint pain or recurring injury, a non-weight bearing form of exercise like cycling, might be the answer for you.

Mental Health benefits of cycling

Being physically active has also been shown to have a positive impact on your mental health, reducing stress, improving sleep and lifting your mood. With cycling there is the double mental health benefit of exercising and being out in nature. Join a cycling club and you will also increase your social network and get some extra support - this is great if you want to push yourself to achieve a new distance target.

Getting started to lose belly fat

If you want to take advantage of all these health benefits of cyclin - including reducing belly fat- how do you get started?

Firstly, check your equipment, because safe and suitable equipment is vital: get your bike serviced, or if you are buying a new one, think about having it professionally fitted. Make sure your helmet conforms to British Standard BS EN 1078:1997 and always check your lights are fully charged before setting out.

Next, what training plan should you use? This will depend your starting point and what you want to achieve but assuming you can already do an easy, 30 minute ride you should consider the following:

  • Plan to steadily increase the distance of your rides over an 8-week period. Be realistic, if you start by being able to ride for 30 minutes, plan to increase rides by about 15 minutes per week for the first couple of weeks
  • Maintain a consistent frequency building up to 3 - 4 rides per week, including at least 1 long ride
  • Mix it up - to build your stamina you need to include some speed training each week. A mid-week fartlek ride is a great way to push your speed over short distances, ride steadily until you recover and then go for another burst of speed
  • Monitor the impact your training is having using a body composition scale such as the Tanita RD-953. Seeing the increase in your muscle mass is a real boost to your motivation and making sure you have good hydration levels will ensure you are physically ready for your training
  • As you build up the duration of your rides, make sure you have water and a snack to give your body the carbohydrate and hydration it needs. For a ride of 1-3 hours you should take 2 bottles of water or electrolyte drink and 2 x 50g energy bars
  • Stretch and give yourself time to recover - make sure you stretch your major muscle groups after your ride and plan at least 1 day per week without any training.

Finally, let us know how you are getting on! We love hearing about how people are improving their health and fitness so let us know how cycling is going for you on @tanita.uk