Having worked as a certified fitness trainer for 21 years, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that if you’re looking for the best exercise to shed a few pounds—and keep them off—nothing beats cycling. Over the years, I’ve seen clients shed half their size and heard from readers who have lost more than 100 pounds by adding cycling to their weight loss arsenal, which, yes, must include a healthy diet. (But you already knew that.)
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So what makes cycling so special? In short, it makes you happy, says Jimmy Weber, of Enid, Oklahoma, who at 6’2” and 260 pounds is not a small rider, but is now 150 pounds lighter than his max weight of 410 pounds seven years ago. He initially shed weight through bariatric surgery and a lot of walking. But walking his usual seven miles a day got boring and running was out of the question.
“I’m too big and the impact would damage me more than benefit me,” he says. Although he has a membership to a local gym, he says he has a hard time making himself go. The bike, however, is another story entirely.
Weber bought his first bike in more than 20 years in 2011 and has clocked more than 20,000 miles in the years that followed, including numerous club and charity rides along the way.
“Bike riding is diverse when it comes to weight management,” he says. “You can go hard and fast and burn a lot of carbs, or slow and steady to burn a lot of fat. Plus, I would not be as happy if I had to maintain my weight with diet alone.”
Weber speaks the truth. In case you need more convincing, here are more great reasons why cycling is the best way to lose weight.
1. It’s not all about “exercise.”
The research is pretty conclusive: Most people who exercise only because they know they should don’t stick with it—at least not for very long. Up to 80 percent of people who start exercising throw in the towel within a year. The novelty quickly wears off and they become bored and find things that are more fun to do. But riding a bike makes you feel like a kid. You can go places and explore, pedal through pretty scenery, and feel the fresh air wash over you. You can ride with friends or family or relish in some alone time. You’re not looking at the clock willing your obligatory 30 minutes to go by. You’re enjoying the ride. Oh, and getting some exercise.
2. It’s easy to do intervals, no matter your size.
Exercise science shows that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fast way to boost your fitness, rev your metabolism, and stimulate human growth hormone, all of which help you ultimately burn more fat. There’s no better place to push those max intervals than on a bike because there’s zero impact, just effort. Just find a quiet stretch of road or path, especially if it’s on a bit of an incline and go. Push as hard as you can for 10 to 20 seconds, go easy for double that time (20 to 40 seconds), and repeat eight times. Rest for four or five minutes, then do it again.
3. You’ll find friends to get fit with.
Research shows that social support—especially having a workout buddy or two— , and consistency is key to improving your fitness and shedding unwanted weight. Cycling is such a social sport that, like herds of buffalo and flocks of geese, there’s even a special name for a group of us: a peloton. It doesn’t take more than a quick search to find local cycling clubs where you can meet riders of the same fitness and ability levels to pedal with.
4. It’s gentle on the joints.
Cycling is so gentle on your joints it is often recommended as the exercise of choice for people with arthritis and other joint ailments. You need to be sure you have a proper bike fit, of course. But with the right fit and a good warmup, you can push the pace without stressing your hips, knees, or ankles.
5. You can take it indoors.
Most outdoor activities are pretty dreadful when you bring them inside (see: running on a treadmill). But indoor cycling apps like Zwift, Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, as well as studio cycling classes offered virtually like Peloton actually make stationary cycling fun and entertaining. That means you’re less likely to fall out of routine when the weather turns bad.
6. You can do it all day.
What else can you do for 100 miles? Burning fat is never so much fun as when you’re spinning along and chitchatting with your ride buddies for a few hours. (Just be smart and limit your snacking to about 200 calories an hour, and you’ll create a calorie deficit in no time.)
7. It fits seamlessly into your life.
The beauty of bikes is that you can get exercise while you’re doing other things rather than having to reserve a chunk of your day to bike as a “workout.” By riding your bike to the store, bike commuting to work, and riding instead of driving for other errands, you can slip in hours of activity every week doing the things you’d normally do anyway—and achieve a healthy weight while you’re at it.
This content was originally published here.