Is Cycling Better Than Running for Knees? (Pros & Cons)

When you have made the decision that you want to work out, it can be daunting to find the right method for working out. It is often harder for some people to run, whilst others find that cycling requires too much balance. However, knowing if is cycling better than running for knees is an important step in choosing the right workout routine.

Is Cycling Better Than Running for Knees? According to Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka (Professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas in Austin), cycling is far better for your knees than running. Since cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity, your knees don’t need to bear the full weight of your body, which would make cycling better.

Is Cycling Better Than Running for Knees

Cycling Vs Running

Breaking down how cycling compares to running is important if you are to choose the right exercise for your needs.

Before I dive deeper, you should note that whichever option you choose, it is better to do at least some physical activity instead of none. Even walking is a great option and one of the safest, if you don’t stumble due to clumsiness as I have.

Since cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity, the rider simply needs to hop onto the bike and they should be fine to continue cycling. If your bike seat is correctly adjusted, you would find that you can effectively extend your legs and this would reduce the strain on your legs.

On the other hand, running can be more daunting due to the constant pressure placed on the legs with each stride. According to a study done by Temple Health, “Runner’s Knee” accounts for a large percentage of injuries sustained by running.

They have found that around 30% of female runners and 25% of male runners are affected by patellofemoral pain syndrome, which directly affects the knees of the runner. When this happens, the cartilage inside the knee will get irritated and inflammation can start, which causes pain whenever you perform exercises that require the knee to bend or move. 

How Many Calories Does Cycling And Running Burn?

runners on the road

One thing I often struggle with is the gut that simply does not want to go away. I have asked myself on numerous occasions if running or cycling burns more belly fat. However, when I sit in bed on YouTube and listen to an expert like Jeff Cavaliere (Athlean-X), it can be frustrating to find out that targeted fat loss is impossible. 

The American College of Sports Medicine might be one of your best friends when looking to find out how many calories you will burn. There are hundreds of online calorie counters online, but not all of them are accurate. 

According to the American College, a 150-pound person would burn around 1,000 calories per hour when running at a brisk pace. Keep in mind that this is more than 7 MPH constantly and while it might seem like plenty of calories, very few people can sustain this pace for even 10 minutes, not to mention a full hour.

If we transfer this same body composition and weight over to cycling, I have tested to find that a 150-pound person can burn close to 850 calories when pedaling their bike at around 16 – 19 MPH on a flat surface. This is not to mention the additional calories they will burn when they speed up or when they are climbing uphill.

Essentially, this wraps up the calorie debate and while running does burn more calories than cycling on paper and in lesser time, the complications around running can often be frustrating. The risks tend to be much higher and it is by far harder than running. You ought to be far more consistent when you are cycling at a constant pace. 

How Cycling Vs Running Affects Other Fitness Aspects

women cyclist on the road

Before determining whether I have to buy a new bike or new running shoes, I had to ask myself a couple of questions like “is cycling better than running for cardio?” After asking these questions, I did some checking with numerous experts and asked a few personal trainers what they would recommend for me. Here are some of the questions I had to ask myself and the experts:

Is Cycling Better Than Walking?

To answer this question was probably the easiest and did not require me to go too deep into the science. Walking is an effective way to lose weight and get into shape, but it is time-consuming. I often work 12-hour days and setting aside 2 or 3 hours a day to burn 500 calories simply did not work. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional weekend hiking trip with my friends and family.

Is Cycling Better Than Running For Stamina?

When it comes to stamina, running is the true winner as stated by a personal friend of mine who enjoys the fitness scene and has trained as a personal trainer. It is easier and much faster to build up stamina whilst running due to the extra strain you will directly be placing on your lungs and heart.

The problem is that even though it is faster, it is not always easier. Cycling is a sport, which allows you to take rest when you feel tired. You don’t need to stop like you do in running and can simply lower the gear and pedal with less cadence. This will still count as working out and will help you build up and sustain the stamina needed for longer endurance workouts.

Is Cycling Better Than Running For Your Heart?

Both cycling and running are extremely beneficial to your heart. Running is great for that quick burst of spiking your heart rate, whereas cycling is not as strenuous. Due to the nature of cycling, you can maintain a better constant heart rate, which would help strengthen the heart and lower HDL cholesterol. We should also mention that running could be better for bone health than cycling.

Cycling Vs Running Pros & Cons

To give you an even better look into what the benefits of these two are and how the drawbacks could affect you, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of cycling and the pros and cons of running:

Pros And Cons Of Cycling


  • Easier to do for longer periods
  • Less strain on the knees and other joints
  • Non-weight bearing activity
  • Can be used as a means of transportation
  • Cadence and power input can easily be varied


  • You need a bike
  • Some people simply cannot ride a bike
  • The risk of falling is real and dangerous

Pros And Cons Of Running


  • Builds stamina faster
  • Burns more calories than cycling for the same effort
  • Inexpensive to start
  • You can go running anywhere you find yourself


  • Puts plenty of strain on the body
  • Tough to maintain your running aptitude
  • It can be dangerous if you live in a high-crime area

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cycling As Effective As Running?

By comparing cycling and running, you will find that both of them are effective. However, it would depend on your goals. If your goals are to improve your fitness rapidly and increase your stamina, you should be much better off choosing running as your desired activity.

However, those with a bit more patience and struggling with injuries would find that cycling is the better alternative. It might take a wee bit longer to increase your stamina, but you will eventually see many improvements.

Is Cycling Better For Your Core

Cycling and running can both be effective for your core. However, running burns more calories in a shorter period and this would lead to more fat loss. Due to the increased fat loss, the visibility of the core muscles might be seen much faster with running.

However, both running and cycling would be effective for strengthening your core. Both of these exercises will put some strain on your core muscles and you should focus on keeping the core intact whilst running or cycling.

Is Cycling Better For Weight Management?

Once again, both cycling and running would be effective for weight management. However, running does allow you to burn calories a bit faster than cycling does. Those looking for a low-impact method of keeping the weight down and wanting to ride to explore would find that cycling can be a great way to manage your weight.

How Much Cycling Is Equal To Running?

It is hard to compare the two if we do not look at some of the specific goals. However, I have found that when comparing cycling to running, using 1:2 or 1:3 as your ratio should be the rule of thumb to keep in mind. This means that for each mile your run, you should cycle 2 or 3 miles to get the same benefits.

Is Cycling Better Than Running for Knees Summary

Whether it is running or cycling you choose, you ought to see some great benefits from each of these workout methods. However, cycling does not carry the same weight on your knees that running would do, which makes it the better option for those with knee issues. Now it is up to you to let us know if you prefer cycling or running when getting in shape!

About Martin

I am Martin, I am the author of this blog. My main interests include cycling. That's why this blog was created. I have always been interested in technology and how bicycles are made, so I built one myself.

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