Apr 24

Calories Burned BikingYou want to know if you burn more calories running or cycling? If so read on.

I bike and run to burn calories and wanted to know the answer to this question myself. The following is what I found.

I had it in my mind that it took twice as long to burn the same amount of calories biking as it did when running.

What I found was that when I bike I burn 88% of the calories I would for the same time running if I compare my top biking speed (25km/h) and my top running speed (10km/h).

When you calculate these two you need to take into consideration the speed you are biking at due to the wind resistance. Also you don’t expend twice the energy when you bike twice the speed.

Running requires the same amount of energy no matter what speed you are running at. You burn 110 calories for every mile you run or 66 calories for every kilometer you run.

Dr. Edward Coyle of The University of Texas in Austin did a study to determined the average values of oxygen consumption by cyclists at difference speeds. This information has been used to create a conversion factor table so you can calculate the distance you need to run to burn the same among of calories for difference biking speeds.

Here’s the conversion table in MPH and KmPH:

mph | calories/mile | conversion factor
10: 26: 4.2
15: 31: 3.5
20: 38: 2.9
25: 47: 2.3
30: 59: 1.9

km/h | calories/km | conversion factor
16: 16: 4.2
25: 18: 3.5
33: 23: 2.9
41: 28: 2.3
50: 35: 1.9

The maximum speed I can bike for a long distance is 25km/h. So when I bike 50km in 2 hours (25km/h) my calorie burn is 900. The conversion factor for 25km/h is 3.5 so I would need to run 14.25km to burn 900 calories.

The maximum speed I can run at 10km/h but I can’t do this for 14km. Currently If I ran 14km I would have to slow down to 8km. 14km at 8km/h would take me 1:45:0 so my calorie burn biking would be 88% of what my running is.

While I can bike 50km per day no problem I couldn’t run 14km every day. So it looks like to me biking is the best way for me to burn calories.

I will be thinking about this and adding more to this post later.

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28 Responses to “Calories Burned in Running vs Cycling”

  1. 1. Pecos45 Says:

    So you are saying you burn as many calories biking as running?
    I don’t think that is correct.
    Wouldn’t 30 minutes of running equal 45 minutes of biking?
    Isn’t running the best way to burn calories in the least amount of time????

  2. 2. B. Says:

    Actually if you double the speed you cycle at, you will burn MORE than twice the calories since air resistance increases exponentially with speed. This can be observed in a car at highway speeds, the fuel consumption raises dramatically for small increases in speed.

  3. 3. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi B,

    Thanks for you comment.

    The short answer is that when you double your speed you don’t doubt your effort and hence the number of calories burned per mile. I did a Calories Burned Cycling post when I changed your comment into a question.

  4. 4. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Pecos45,

    The short answers are yes you can burn as many calories biking as running; for me 30 minutes doesn’t running doesn’t equal 45 minutes of biking; and no running is not the best way to burn calories in the least amount of time.

    I make a post Calories Burned Biking out of your questions where I answered the questions in more depth.

  5. 5. Calories Burned Says:

    Estimating calories burned is a hard thing to do. But this new device called Gowear does it all for you by taking different measurement for a more accurate number.

  6. 6. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Calories Burned,

    I removed the link you placed to your page with the affiliate link to Amazon. Amazon is a good place to purchase the GoWear fit Lifestyle and Calorie Management System.

    The GoWear calorie management system is $159.95 with a 12 month commitment for Online Activity Manager at $6.95/month (first month free). If you want the GoWear Display unit that is another $99.95.

    Here is their FAQ.

  7. 7. Leon Says:

    Hi Bob and others,

    I think things are becoming a little bit confusing here and I couldn’t help giving it a go for myself.

    When you want to measure the intensity of for instance a workout the first thing to do is set a measure that will not change. A good measure for intensity is Calories/h since that is comparable. When you use cal/km it can not be compared directly if the speeds vary. (this also shows that cal/h does increase non-linear when you bike faster as b stated on may 20th)

    When I use your data for calories needed per workout these are my results:

    For running
    Speed (km/h) : Intensity(Cal/hr)
    4: 264
    6: 396
    8: 528
    10: 660
    12: 792
    14: 924
    16: 1056

    For cycling
    Speed (km/h) : Intensity(Cal/hr)
    16: 256
    25: 450
    33: 759
    41: 1148
    50: 1750

    Running is much more intense than biking, but much depends on your speed. This makes sense because you state yourself that you can bike for 2 hours but 1 hour of running is already forcing you to decrease your speed. You can compare: running at 8 km/h will use 528 Cal/hr. If you want to burn the same amount of calories in one hour on your bike you need to be travelling at approx. 30 km/h. This means that at these speeds, running and cycling are equally intense.

    Note: it is true that endurance sports (cycling) enable people to burn more calories because it is easier to keep it up for longer periods at a time. That is why it is hard to say what burns the most calories in the least amount of time.

  8. 8. Leon Says:

    (an extra post to make sure I get an email when there is a followup…)

  9. 9. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Leon,

    I think people are more interested in the best way to burn calories. As you noted this depends on the speed you can bike and run at. My maximum running speed for 1/2hr is 10km. Many people will be able to run faster and longer so they will need to work out what they can run at and find out the speed they will have to bike at to get the same burn. Running is more about cardio, while for biking you require good cardio but it is more about the strength of your legs.

    At some point I am hoping to make a calculator that will show what speed you have to bike at to burn the same calories as the inputted running distance and time.

  10. 10. eric Says:

    It does seem running burn more calories but if you can’t keep it up for long (like me), bike seem to be a better way to burn calories because I can bike for 3-4 time longuer than I can run. Also, if you aren’t in good healt, running hurt much more than biking and maybe will make you give up or skip more often.

  11. 11. Bill Anderson Says:

    I hate to be a buzz killer, but speed is a very weak indicator of calories burned. In fact it’s pointless to use speed because there are just to many environmental influeneses such as altitude, tempeture, wind and hills.
    The only factors that count are your age, gender, weight, average heart rate and Max VO2 uptake. Visit these two sites for the formulas:

  12. 12. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    Thank for noting Carol’s Calculate Calories Burned based on age, weight, average heart rate, and VO2 Max.

    Do you think altitude is something important to consider too seeing that your max oxygen uptake decreases by 8 to 11% for every 1000m over 1600m?

  13. 13. Bill Anderson Says:

    Definately, especially if you train in Boulder, Colorado.

  14. 14. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    I meant is altitude some thing consider in the equation of how many calories you burn? So it would be age, weight, gender, altitude, duration, AHR and VO2max?

    What do you think is the better method to test yourself for your VO2max? I think Carol’s suggestion of using 35 for VO2max is to low for more people.

    From looking at the different tests on http://www.brianmac.co.uk/vo2max.htm#vo2 it is hard to say what my VO2max is.

    On this (Race Results) test you input your race results. I put in 5km at 28 minutes and get 33.5 for a VO2max.

    On this one (Cooper VO2max Test) you run for 12 minutes and then input the meters. I can do 5km on a hilly trail that winds in 28 minutes so I am guessing on the straight stretch with a hard sprint for the last 300 meters I can do 2300 to 2400 meters in 12 minutes. That gives me a 40 to 42 VO2max.

    On this one (One Mile Jog) I used Male, 155lb, 9min to 11min, 140 to 180 AHR, and everything was around 50.

    So 3 different tests 3 different numbers. Race Results is around 30, Cooper is around 40, and One Mile Jog is around 50.

    Do you know which home test is the best. 30 to 50 is a pretty wide range?

    Using Carol’s tool with 51age, 155lb, Male, 145AHR, 28min, and putting in 30 and 50 VO2max I get a difference in calories of 54. That is a pretty wide margin.

  15. 15. Bill Anderson Says:

    Bob, I’ve had my Max VO2 measured in the past and the test that comes closest is the non-exercise statistical test that uses BMI, gender and your exercise pattern.

    The most signifcant variables and the only ones you can control in real time are time-of-exercise and heart rate. So my sugesstion is to settle on an MVO2 you feel comforatable with (I chose 45 based on my test results), than pick your exercise (bike or run) and target a time and heart rate that will meet your goal. My comfort heart rate is about 132, so I can ride for an hour at my comfort speed of 16mph or run for an hour at 6mph and burn the same number of calories.

  16. 16. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    The nice thing about this is you can use this for any exercise. Weight lifting, Elliptical trainer, even shoveling snow or building a shed. Did you have a URL for the non-exercise statistical test that uses BMI, gender and your exercise pattern to calculate VO2max?

  17. 17. Bill Anderson Says:


    You’re right Bob, your heart is your fuel pump and the faster you run it and the longer you run it the more fuel you burn; pretty simple, but it works for me.

  18. 18. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    I have a Garmin Forerunner 305 here that I need to be repaired and then I am going to start using it as it records your AHR for periods of time. What about a link to that non-exercise statistical test you were talking about?

  19. 19. Bill Anderson Says:

    It’s hidden in the front of my response. Here it is again:


    BTW, the software for the Garmin products that calulate calories is very general and frankly, pretty well worthless. Garmin is known for great GPS stuff. I have the 405 and it works OK, but is very sensitive to the touch.
    I had a Polar HR monitor and it has the best software for managing your work out using the built in functions. Unfortunately the Polar went TU and it costs too much to fix.

  20. 20. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    I have heard the Garmin products before the 405 were not calculating calories very well. I was thinking of using my 305 just for the time and AHR.

    Right now I am trying out Runkeeper on my jailbroken iPhone. I hope they will add heart monitoring to their system.

    I have lost 40lbs just running and cycling and I have 10lbs more to go and then I am going to work on my shoulders, arms, and chest for tennis, abs to get my BFP down to 10%, and my legs and for more cycle speed.

    My tennis this year was very bad as I have lost some muscle as I dropped in weight.

    I have a Bowflex Ultima 2 that I plan on starting to use and I am looking for a good system to track my calories.

  21. 21. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Bill,

    On the VO2max from Nonexercise Data I input Male, 70.5kg, 1.7m, Vigorous activity: run over 25 miles per week or spend over 8 hours per week in comparable physical activity as described above, Jogging at a medium pace (9 minute/mile), and I could jog the entire distance at a medium pace (10 minute/mile) — this gave me a VO2max of 52.76.

    So I think I am pretty safe to say my VO2max is 40 to 50 and I would be save using 45 to rate my calorie burn.

  22. 22. Bill Anderson Says:

    At my peak, I was physically measured at 59.7 MVO2; the Nonexercise formula gave me 56.8, I think you may want to go with a higher number because the lower one will give you a lower burn rate than you actually are achieving.

    If you’re serious about using a heart rate monitor to help you with training and weight loss, I’d suggest you look at one of the highend polar products:


    They are all excellent devices and the software is first rate; much better that any of the Garmin training software.

  23. 23. James Says:

    How can running use the same amount of energy no matter what speed? How can anything go faster without using more energy?

  24. 24. Bill Anderson Says:

    Run down a hill with the wind at your back and turn around and run up the hill with the wind in your face. Now, how much energy did you use during both trips and how fast were you going?

  25. 25. bob Says:

    Hi Bill,

    I think in the case you listed above the would be quite a bit of difference. But this doesn’t change the fact that typically a person burns 66 calories a km or 110 calories a mile whether they run or walk.



  26. 26. ace Says:

    “Running requires the same amount of energy no matter what speed you are running at. You burn 110 calories for every mile you run or 66 calories for every kilometer you run.”

    This is in every sense false.

    The human body burns calories just by sitting in one place. A person burns calories sleeping.

    “Work equals force times distance” is not the only consideration to account for when calculating energy burn.

    Please stop parroting this falsehood.

  27. 27. pete Says:

    Bob and Bill where have you gone!

  28. 28. Bill Anderson Says:

    Burning off calories on my brand new Cannondale CAAD 10. I can ride faster because it is a more effiecient machine, but I have to ride longer because my heart rate is lower and I burn fewer calories per minute. All neatly documented by my heart rate monitoring bike computer. Technology has a wonderful way of disproving mythology…

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