If you’re looking for the best exercise to shed a few pounds—and keep them off—nothing beats cycling. Over the years, most of our 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.)
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.