Working out the exact amount of calories burned by any single activity is not easy, because it depends on a number of factors. But don’t worry, we’re not going to completely stiff you if you’re looking for hard numbers on the calories that you’ll burn when cycling.
Before we dive into how you can work it out more exactly for yourself, here are some figures from Harvard Medical School for both indoor and outdoor cycling, which will give you a useful estimate of the calories burned in half an hour of cycling.
|125lb (56.7kg) person||155lb (70.3kg) person||185lb (83.9kg) person|
|Indoor cycling, moderate||210||260||311|
|Indoor cycling, vigorous||315||391||466|
|Outdoor cycling, 12-13.9mph (19.3-22.4km/h)||240||298||355|
|Outdoor cycling, 14-15.9mph (22.5-25.6km/h)||300||372||444|
|Outdoor cycling, 16-19mph (25.7-30.6km/h)||360||446||533|
Along with providing a ballpark for calories burned, the above demonstrates how the precise number varies based on a range of factors. That starts with the individual – your age, sex, height and weight will all affect the number of calories you burn.
Then there’s the cycling itself. Effort level is clearly important – more effort means more calories burned – and if you’re cycling outdoors the elements come into play, because pedalling uphill into a headwind requires more energy to keep moving forwards than freewheeling downhill with the wind at your back.
Using a fitness tracker can help provide better estimates of the calories burned on your rides, but do make sure you enter your personal details like height and weight to get more accurate results. The readings will use your heart rate to judge your effort, so it’s important for that to be accurate too. Many watches have built-in optical heart rate monitors that are reasonably precise, but you can pair a chest strap heart rate sensor to your watch to increase the accuracy.
There are also online calculators you can use to judge how many calories you burn on a ride, like keisan.casio.com. While these can be useful you’ll notice that you can’t add details like wind and incline, so you can’t expect perfect accuracy.
Even if you can’t get exact numbers you can rest assured that cycling is a terrific way to burn calories and lose weight if you incorporate it into your weekly routine. It’s also a discipline which lends itself to HIIT sessions, especially when riding indoors, which can help you burn more calories in a shorter span of time.