Bike riding is an excellent form of exercise, and a great way to improve your fitness. But if you are considering taking up bike riding as a form of exercise, you may be wondering which type of bike is best for your needs.
The truth is, it depends on your fitness goals. Let’s take a look at road bikes and mountain bikes for exercise.
Cardio vs. Muscle Training: Which is the Better Form of Exercise?
Bike riding can give you two main forms of exercise: cardiovascular, or muscle training. What’s the difference, and which is better?
- Cardiovascular workouts (also called aerobic exercise) uses oxygen to help burn stored calories. It features an elevated heart rate and respiratory rate over a long period of time, which strengthens and tones the heart and lungs, improving their function and efficiency. It increases the number of red blood cells in the body, for better transportation of oxygen, and reduces blood pressure, so it improves overall physical health and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It has also been shown to improve mood, and even improve cognitive function.
- Muscle training exercise (also called anaerobic or strength exercises) converts sugar into energy. By focusing on expending energy through the muscles, this form of exercise boosts metabolism, improves endurance, and builds or maintains muscle mass. It also helps to strengthen bones and joints as well as muscles, and burns more calories in a shorter amount of time.
Of course, no form of exercise is exclusively aerobic or anaerobic. It is virtually impossible for a person to work their muscles without elevating heart rate, and you can’t elevate your heart rate without using some of your muscles. The current government guidelines recommend that healthy adults regularly engage in both kinds of exercise for 150 minutes a week.
Cardio vs Strength Training for Weight Loss
If your specific exercise goal is to lose weight and look better, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Cardio burns more fat and calories. If your exercise goal is to lose fat and weight, cardio is more important.
- Strength training develops muscle and boosts metabolism. Muscle looks leaner and fitter than fat, at any weight, and a faster metabolism burns calories all day every day. If your exercise goal is to reshape your body, strength training is better.
As always, it’s important to do both forms of exercise for health and fitness, and both will promote weight loss.
However, a large amount of body fat conceals muscles and hides visible tone and definition, no matter how fit the muscles themselves are.
Different Types of Bike Riding
When you are familiar with the different forms of exercise, it’s easy to see what kind of bike riding can be categorized either way.
Generally speaking, when a person is riding a road bike, they are maintaining a high rate of speed over smooth surfaces. They have an elevated respiration and heart rate, and they maintain it for a long time as they zip along.
When you think of typical mountain biking, however, you think of speeding into jumps, grinding up hills, rapid turns, and rough terrain. Mountain biking changes speed and direction suddenly, with fewer constants and shorter time periods.
A mountain biker is much more mobile and active in the saddle than a road biker: they are leaning forward, standing over the handlbars, using their legs and core to pull the bike up underneath their bodies, and using their bodies to compensate for shocks, vibrations, and impacts.
Road Bike vs Mountain Bike for Exercise
Broadly speaking, bike riding as a whole is considered a cardiovascular form of exercise. But, as you can imagine, mountain biking is actually less aerobic, and more of a muscle training activity than road biking. Here is a comparison:
- better cardio workout for heart and lungs
- easier to sustain for long periods of time
- more versatile for urban and daily riding
- engages more of the entire body, toning muscles and improving endurance
- more difficult to do for long periods of time
- more difficult to transport to suitable locations and exercise terrain
The best bike for your exercise goals doesn’t just depend on what you want to look like: it also depends on what you enjoy and want to do every day. If you find road biking boring and monotonous, and want the adventure and challenges of mountain biking, then that’s the best form of exercise for you.
If you don’t like the bumps and shocks of mountain biking, and want to enjoy the scenery without keeping your eyes on the trail, then road biking is better for you.
Either way, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.