Cycling or running. Which one provides the best health benefits? The debate rages on. There are pros and cons for both types of exercise. If you are on a budget, then running is the best choice for you. There is a limited cost involved in beginning running. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and off you go. However, when you begin cycling, there will be costs on the bicycle, a lock, reflectors, and lights. On the other hand, you may face more muscle weakness with running than with cycling. In essence, it may depend on which one you like to do the most for a true winner to be selected.

Let’s explore some of the difference between cycling and running and see which one ends up on top.

Exercise Intensity

Exercise intensity is the first measure to determine which one provides the best health benefits. When you are a runner, the intensity of running is higher than the intensity of cycling. When you are cycling, unless you are going up steep inclines, most of the riding is on a smooth, flat surface. However, when you are running, your legs will be working harder. However, when you are running, you are doing more damage to your joints due to the constant jarring of your body with each step that you take. With cycling, your joints will not be subjected to the same damage.


With running, you will burn off more calories as the intensity of the exercise is stronger. Not to mention, the runner is carrying their body weight as they run, and a cyclist is sitting on a bicycle. However, the cyclist will gain more muscle tone than the runner. Running is not known for building muscles. On the other hand, when you are cycling, you are working on building the strength and muscle tone of your lower extremities.


As a runner, you don’t have to make any special accommodations to run. However, as a cyclist, you can incorporate cycling into your commuting. It is easier to carry work material on a bicycle. When you are a runner, you can’t really tote your briefcase along for the ride.

Overall Toll

Evaluation of the overall health toll is the last of the measures to evaluate which one provides the best health benefits. Runners will face an overall toll on their health due to the breakdown of muscles and joint pain. While a cyclist will increase their lower body muscle tone and not have the same negative effects on their joints. As a result, cycling seems to be the clear winner for overall health.

In Conclusion

While there are benefits to running, there are also some serious cons regarding a person’s long-term health. Muscle breakdown and joint damage are large drawbacks to be a long-distance runner. However, a long-distance cyclist can build their lower body strength and supplement that muscle growth with upper body weight training. In addition, a cyclist will have less damage to their joints due to the smooth motion of cycling versus the jarring motion of running.