Cycling is one of the best ways of getting exercise. It’s a fantastic way to boost cardiovascular fitness, increase endurance, and strengthen and tone your leg muscles. This is all great, and it’s stuff that benefits you all year round. I’m writing this just after Christmas though, so I have a slightly different priority right now – fighting the effects of all that seasonal excess. It’s pretty hard to watch what you eat at this time of year, so if you want to avoid starting 2014 a bit bigger than you were in 2013 the best solution is to get out there and burn off some calories. I’m planning to do that by cycling as usual, so how effective is it?
The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you eat. For the average man that should be about 2,500kcal a day, or 2,000 for a woman. Unfortunately most of us tend to get through a few more than that, especially round Christmas. The recommended energy intake is based on what you’ll burn in a normal day, with some moderate walking around thrown in. Even 100kcal a day more than that and you’ll steadily pile on some extra layers, and most of us eat a lot more than that, so anything that burns off some extra is going to help. The best way to burn energy is through aerobic exercise, and that’s exactly what cycling is.
The key to a bike-based weight loss plan is to work out how many calories you actually eat then figure out how far above the recommended limit that is. If you sit at a desk all day add another hundred to what you want to burn; if you do heavy physical work knock a few off. The good news is that you’ll burn about 65 percent of the recommended daily intake even if you’re lying in bed, so the targets we’re looking at are pretty achievable. So now you know how many calories you need to burn every day; how much cycling is it going to take to manage it?
I’ve always been pretty lucky with my metabolism. It’s a fast one and uses a lot of energy, so keeping my weight down is fairly easy if I don’t overdo the eating side of things. Some people get through calories more slowly. This makes it difficult to work out exactly how much energy you’re burning when you exercise, and a lot of other variables can affect it too. Your weight, the slopes you’re cycling on, your bike and even the air temperature will all affect how many calories you use up every minute you’re pedalling, so it’s hard to give more than a rough guide. Some exercise bikes will quote you a figure for how much energy you’re using but they’re not really very accurate. Even an approximate figure is usually enough to get you started though, and if you get the numbers wrong and burn more than you’d planned you’ll just lose weight faster so you still win.
The main thing that affects your energy consumption when cycling is your speed. The faster you go the more energy you need to keep that speed up, and the rate you burn calories goes up more steeply than the number on the speedo. For the average man cycling along at a leisurely 16 km/h will get through about 517kcal in an hour; for a woman it’s slightly lower at 444kcal. Get up to 20km/h and that rises to 862kcal for a woman, and if you enjoy racing and can keep up 30km/h for a while that’ll use around 1,034kcal for a man and 887kcal for a woman. These are pretty impressive numbers – even if you really overdid the turkey and fruit cake you can easily get back on the right side of the calorie curve by cycling 10km a day.
To get a better idea of how many calories you’ll burn yourself, look for an online calculator that lets you input your weight; this still won’t be exact, because there are too many unknowns, but it won’t be too far off and certainly close enough for you to sort out your exercise plan. And of course the great thing about cycling is it’s so flexible; if you’re out on the trail and decide you have some energy to spare you can go a bit further or up the speed. Don’t try any shortcuts though – wearing a waterproof jacket on a hot day to make you sweat more won’t help you lose weight any quicker, for example. You can’t sweat out fat; you need to burn it. What you’re sweating is water, and if you lose too much you risk dehydration or even heatstroke. Just stick to whatever sort of cycling you enjoy and you’ll be fine.
Michael Carlisle is the Technology & Marketing Media Manager of Pushys Online – Michael has taken Pushys to great strengths across the online, ecommerce world. Pushys offer a huge range of Bikes and Accessories and very competitive pricing. Find out more at www.pushys.com.au and follow Michael on Google+ and Linked In