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TOPIC: Bicycling vs. Running Calories burned

 
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August 30, 2013 2:21 PM
I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of estimated calories burned during cycling vs. running. For years I thought running burned many more calories per hour than cycling at similar levels of perceived effort. According to one calorie calculator:

195 lb male. 60 minutes of exercise

Running @ 9 minutes a mile pace = 975

Bicycling at 14 - 15.9 mph = 886 calories burned (Assume that is for a road bike. I ride a hybrid bike and I average about 12 mph. Friend at a bike shop suggested adding 2 - 3 mph to compare that to a road bike)

For me, bicycling for an hour at this pace seems mentally easier than running for an hour at 9 minutes a mile.

Thoughts?
Edited by Adventure9 On August 30, 2013 2:21 PM
August 30, 2013 7:13 PM
i can't really account for 'mentally easier' but if it feels 'physically easier' it's a good bet that it doesn't burn as many calories as the harder activity.
August 30, 2013 7:36 PM
MFP overestimates both activities, but it exaggerates cycling more. The calculator at bike calculator.com is more accurate. I weigh about 180, and I burn more like 500-600 calories an hour cycling at 15-16 mph. And while hybrids take more energy to pedal than road bikes, due to the greater wind resistance of an upright position, the difference at speeds as low as 12 mph isn't that big; wind resistance is more of an issue above 15 mph.
  34527787
August 30, 2013 9:41 PM
Hi, IMHO the only way to get a semi accurate calorie burn is to wear HR monitor to take your burn. I both run and cycle. I burn more per hour running then I do cycling on flat terrain. If there are hills involved that changes everything. In an hour running at 6 mph I burn about 650 calories. Cycling at 18 to 20 mph I burn about 590 calories.

I always wear a HR monitor, and it was said before MFP over estimates most activites.

I wish you the best
  10325905
August 30, 2013 9:44 PM
I just re read your post on the calorie burn that MFP says for a hour of running and cycling...that sounds REALLY off. For me to burn 800 calories in one hour I would have to work in HR zone 5 for the entire hour and then I would be near stroke levels!
  10325905
August 30, 2013 9:51 PM
Here's what's worked for me as part of my almost 60 lbs of burn since June:

First calculate your max heart rate (220 - age). That's 183 for me.

Then throw on an HRM and then go out for a few mile run. See where your heart rate is comfortable but challenging; a number that you can keep up for long distances without petering out. Generally that's about 60-70% of max heart rate (well, for me anyway. YMMV). Adjust your pace accordingly while you run to stay in this range.

A few days later, throw the HRM back on and go for a bike ride. Pedal until you're maintaining between 60-70% of your max heart rate. Again, if you go over, back off. Go under, kick it up.

There. Now you're burning exactly as many calories riding as you would be running. As stated above this all changes when there are hills and such, but overall I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what you need to do to make running and cycling pretty close to even.

That's really all there is to it. Works like a champ.
Edited by madtownjeremy On August 30, 2013 9:56 PM
August 30, 2013 10:10 PM
QUOTE:

Here's what's worked for me as part of my almost 60 lbs of burn since June:

First calculate your max heart rate (220 - age). That's 183 for me.

Then throw on an HRM and then go out for a few mile run. See where your heart rate is comfortable but challenging; a number that you can keep up for long distances without petering out. Generally that's about 60-70% of max heart rate (well, for me anyway. YMMV). Adjust your pace accordingly while you run to stay in this range.

A few days later, throw the HRM back on and go for a bike ride. Pedal until you're maintaining between 60-70% of your max heart rate. Again, if you go over, back off. Go under, kick it up.



There. Now you're burning exactly as many calories riding as you would be running. As stated above this all changes when there are hills and such, but overall I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what you need to do to make running and cycling pretty close to even.

That's really all there is to it. Works like a champ.


The formula for max HR is a general one, and sometimes is not as accurate. If I use the formula my Max HR is 172. I have done threshold testing at the gym and my Max HR is 183....food for thought
  10325905
August 30, 2013 10:23 PM
QUOTE:

The formula for max HR is a general one, and sometimes is not as accurate. If I use the formula my Max HR is 172. I have done threshold testing at the gym and my Max HR is 183....food for thought


Totally worth considering. I would guess increasing my max by 10 beats wouldn't change my ranges too much, but over time tracking results would be a bit confusing if I'm using one formula but my body is really living by another.

Good info!
August 30, 2013 10:34 PM
QUOTE:

I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of estimated calories burned during cycling vs. running. For years I thought running burned many more calories per hour than cycling at similar levels of perceived effort. According to one calorie calculator:

195 lb male. 60 minutes of exercise

Running @ 9 minutes a mile pace = 975

Bicycling at 14 - 15.9 mph = 886 calories burned (Assume that is for a road bike. I ride a hybrid bike and I average about 12 mph. Friend at a bike shop suggested adding 2 - 3 mph to compare that to a road bike)

For me, bicycling for an hour at this pace seems mentally easier than running for an hour at 9 minutes a mile.

Thoughts?


Very true.

And at whatever pace you'd need to do running to match a calorie burn riding the bike - I'll bet you could go out and ride the bike the very next day, and the next, and have no problem doing it, recovery is easier because it's less jarring.
But attempt that with the running, and you may knock yourself out of commission for a while with injury.

The other benefit I've found to the bike, if your route includes any kind of city road bike riding - you get automatic intervals, where as running is steady state.

So if you reached an avgHR say of 150 on the bike, or your avg speed of 15 mph, you likely ranged from 90 at stop lights up to 170 on hills and sprinting away from lights. Speed would have changed like that too. Easy to hard effort.

And it's been found the benefits of intervals, even if not the HIIT type, are still useful compared to steady state.

But if you reach the same HR on both, and your HRmax is about the same on both because of no extra training on one or the other, other factors being equal, than you burned the same amount of calories on both. (though, HRmax could be different on running compared to biking).

If I do a 3 hr 3000 cal ride on Sat, I can do a 2 hr 1600 cal run on Sun. Mon and Tue are rest days of course now.
But if I attempted or did a 3 hr 3000 cal run on Sat, forget doing anything on Sunday. Probably Monday for that matter too.
August 30, 2013 10:38 PM
QUOTE:

MFP overestimates both activities, but it exaggerates cycling more. The calculator at bike calculator.com is more accurate. I weigh about 180, and I burn more like 500-600 calories an hour cycling at 15-16 mph. And while hybrids take more energy to pedal than road bikes, due to the greater wind resistance of an upright position, the difference at speeds as low as 12 mph isn't that big; wind resistance is more of an issue above 15 mph.


Ha, weight of the hybrid possibly being more. Actually, since you are powering the bike, really the weight of the bike and water should be in there too, not just rider weight.

Same as if you jogged with handweights, that increases your mass and your energy spent.

Then again, I have a cheap mountain bike for family rides, road bike for my own rides. Cheap = heavy. Those new hybrids are lighter, but 25 lbs is not insignificant.
August 30, 2013 10:41 PM
QUOTE:

Hi, IMHO the only way to get a semi accurate calorie burn is to wear HR monitor to take your burn. I both run and cycle. I burn more per hour running then I do cycling on flat terrain. If there are hills involved that changes everything. In an hour running at 6 mph I burn about 650 calories. Cycling at 18 to 20 mph I burn about 590 calories.

I always wear a HR monitor, and it was said before MFP over estimates most activites.

I wish you the best


oh, you gotta burn more than that going that fast!

What HRM are you using?

Those cheaper Polars that have no VO2max stat to change, assume if your BMI is bad, your VO2max is bad, so a low HR is seen as low calorie burn.

But if your VO2max is actually pretty good, then low HR is actually a good calorie burn.
August 30, 2013 10:51 PM
QUOTE:


The other benefit I've found to the bike, if your route includes any kind of city road bike riding - you get automatic intervals, where as running is steady state.



That's why I LOVE city riding so much. That and it's just easier to whip through town on my Soho rather than try and drive it.
August 30, 2013 11:03 PM
This formula can be extremely off. for example, my max heart rate, with your formula, is 173. 70% of that is 121. When I run (I'm just starting) my heart rate hovers around 179. I use an HRM. I've been tested with a 24 hour monitor and this is not bad nor unusual for me. When I sleep, my heart rate goes way down, when I exercise hard it goes way up. It also recovers extremely quickly after exertion. These are all things to keep in mind. If a person's HR is over their supposed zone but they feel fine, there's no need to slow down. If i slowed my running to keep my heart rate in "the zone", i'd be walking. Very, very slowly.

tl:dr, wear an HRM, it's the only way you get an accurate read. Formulas are very rough estimates and never fit anyone well.
August 30, 2013 11:08 PM
The reason why cycling is mentally easier is because you are moving a greater speed which requires more of your attention focused away from your labors.

In other words, you're too busy looking out for obstacles to bother noticing that you are working hard.

I also find that when I run with my dog, it feels easier than when I run alone. I have to make sure the dog is not going to trip me up somehow, so I forget to worry about how tired I am.
  22710373
August 30, 2013 11:33 PM
QUOTE:

This formula can be extremely off. for example, my max heart rate, with your formula, is 173. 70% of that is 121. When I run (I'm just starting) my heart rate hovers around 179. I use an HRM. I've been tested with a 24 hour monitor and this is not bad nor unusual for me. When I sleep, my heart rate goes way down, when I exercise hard it goes way up. It also recovers extremely quickly after exertion. These are all things to keep in mind. If a person's HR is over their supposed zone but they feel fine, there's no need to slow down. If i slowed my running to keep my heart rate in "the zone", i'd be walking. Very, very slowly.

tl:dr, wear an HRM, it's the only way you get an accurate read. Formulas are very rough estimates and never fit anyone well.


Excellent fitness, bet your resting HR is low too.

I'd suggest the supposed HR zone is whatever the workout is supposed to be.
If day following a heaving lifting day including legs or needing to train the fat burning system for endurance race, the Active Recovery HR zone is correct (aka badly named fat-burning zone).
If wanting race pace then Tempo Zone is correct.
If longer run at decent pace and more fat burn training, then Aerobic zone.
If intervals, up to Lactate Threshold zone.

Also, if your HR really does jump right up to 179, and to hit what I'm guessing your were calling recovery zone around 120 requires a slow walk, I'd suggest you need to train down there a tad more. That's really terrible aerobic conditioning.
My 4 mph walk level barely hits 90, hills will help get it up to 110-120.
If your system jumps that high that fast, it's been trained to burn carbs.
September 2, 2013 7:47 AM
Bump. Good discussion all. Thanks for the thoughts. I have a heart rate monitor that I've had for years, but haven't been using it. I'm dusting it off now and reading how to use it's more complex features - ie average heart rate during an exercise session.

If I recall there is a pretty high correlation between heart rate average and calories burned.

Please keep the comments coming.

Thanks!
September 2, 2013 8:09 AM
QUOTE:

Bump. Good discussion all. Thanks for the thoughts. I have a heart rate monitor that I've had for years, but haven't been using it. I'm dusting it off now and reading how to use it's more complex features - ie average heart rate during an exercise session.

If I recall there is a pretty high correlation between heart rate average and calories burned.

Please keep the comments coming.

Thanks!


I wouldn't call it high correlation, but rather it's about the best one to use outside monitoring your breath and measuring O2/CO2. There is no other easy way except the movement based monitors, which depending on activity can work just as well. Sometimes they are terrible though.
September 2, 2013 1:43 PM
QUOTE:

Ha, weight of the hybrid possibly being more. Actually, since you are powering the bike, really the weight of the bike and water should be in there too, not just rider weight.

Same as if you jogged with handweights, that increases your mass and your energy spent.


On a bike, that's only true going uphill, when you're adding potential energy as you go up. On flat ground, energy is spent primarily in overcoming rolling resistance (the deformation of the tires as they roll over the road) and wind resistance; the latter is far more important as you reach higher speeds. My touring bike weighs 10 lbs. more than my fast road bike, but at steady speeds on level terrain, it takes the same number of calories to power them (there's a difference of a couple percent, probably due to the stiffer tires on the touring bike).

Jogging with handweights, on the other hand, you're constantly changing the momentum of the weights. The analogue is accelerating on a bike. If you want to accelerate quickly, it helps to have light tires and rims—or smaller wheels. In road racing, where the ability to keep up with a breakaway is vital, lightweight wheels confer a real advantage. Not so much for the rest of us, though.

Other things being equal, a heavier bike will be faster going downhill, too. I no longer go quite as fast downhill now as I did last year, when I weighed over 30 pounds more!
  34527787
September 2, 2013 9:42 PM
QUOTE:

Other things being equal, a heavier bike will be faster going downhill, too. I no longer go quite as fast downhill now as I did last year, when I weighed over 30 pounds more!


That is the bummer part, except if off belly, you can probably get in to better tuck now and help somewhat.

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