Is bike riding good exercise?

Howard E. Lewine, MD
First, I would say that any physical activity you add to your daily routine is "good exercise."

Bike riding falls into the category of aerobic training. To get the most health benefit from aerobic exercise you should try to maintain a level of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. (An hour a day would be terrific.)

Your heart rate should be at 60% to 75% of your maximal heart rate. The simple way to calculate this is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you're 50, your maximal heart rate is 220 – 50, or 170. Sixty percent of that is 102; 75 percent is 128. So a 50-year-old would aim for heart rate between 102 and 128.

But don't rely on this measurement alone. At moderate intensity exercise, you should be able to talk without difficulty, even if your heart rate is in range. If you are breathing so hard that you can't talk, you may want to ease up a little.

To make up for the muscle exercise that bike riding lacks, I recommend adding resistance training with weights or machines to work your arm, shoulder and back muscles. Do this 2 to 3 times per week. Don't do resistance training of the same muscles two days in a row. They need a chance to recover.

I also suggest adding core strengthening to work your abdominal muscles. Although you don't need to, you can do sit-ups and crunches daily.
Harvard Medical School Exercise: A program you can live with

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Exercise: A program you can live with

What can improve your mood, boost your ability to fend off infection, and lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer? The answer is regular exercise. It may...

Absolutely bike riding is a good form of exercise. You can ride a bicycle just about any time of the year in many locations and it is a relatively inexpensive activity. Cycling increases muscle strength and tone of the legs, cardiorespiratory function and burns calories. Cycling is generally considered an aerobic activity; however, incorporating intervals of high sprints or hill climbing can spike the heart rate and require other energy systems to work.

JC Pinzon

Any exercise that makes you move is a good exercise. Biking is one of my favorite exercises. My knees never hurt no matter how many miles I pedal. It is easier on the joints than running. It is non-impact and therefore safer and easier on the joints. Biking is an exercise that you can do even at an older age. It is a great aerobic exercise for losing weight and increasing cardio endurance. Start slow and gradually progress. I do it all year round. When it rains or snows I try spinning indoors. Biking is getting more popular every day and can save you money when you use it as a means of transportation.

Bike riding can be good exercise, and biking outdoors is a great way to connect with nature, burn calories and work your lower body. Here are some tips to help you to stay safe and maximize your workout:
  • Make sure your seat is adjusted to the best height for lower back comfort, and to make sure you can pedal efficiently. Remember to keep arms slightly bent to help absorb the shock of bumps as you ride. 
  • Shift often and early to keep your ride smooth and steady. 
  • When steering, don’t just move the handlebars – shift your weight into the turn as well. 
  • Control the brake and attempt to gradually stop, so you avoid injuries.
  • Always look where you want to go, so you observe the terrain ahead of time and easily adjust gears and speed to accommodate changes in the road.
  • Be aware of using your core muscles to help maintain balance and get the added benefit of a toned abdomen.

Continue Learning about Cycling

Bike to Work—But Wear Your Helmet
Bike to Work—But Wear Your Helmet
Recently I chatted with a childhood friend about the crazy, unsafe things we did on bicycles when we were young. Whether it was launching ourselves of...
Read More
Give Cycling a Try
Give Cycling a Try
My parents told me I should give it a try. At the age of four, I was introduced to the bike. Not for competition, just for fun. I didn’t think about ...
Read More
Is it better to ride in the morning or the evening to reduce body fat?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
The time of day that you exercise and the amount of body fat burned in the mid-section are not r...
More Answers
What is proper etiquette for a group ride?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
Group rides are often done in a double pace line. Riders organize themselves shoulder to shoulde...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.