What Burns More Calories Running Or Mountain Biking?

This is an interesting topic of discussion for me because I enjoy running regularly but have been thinking of adding an additional sport that isn’t so hard on my knees.  Mountain bikers in general are able to put in more hours so it remains difficult to determine which of these two activities burn more calories.

Both sports are fast-paced and forceful; however, running is a weight-bearing activity and therefore should burn more calories in one session.  The intensity of running outweighs mountain biking in the sense that it uses the whole body to lift and propel itself throughout the entire activity.

Whether you are a runner or whether you are a mountain biker there are a couple of ways in which you can tweak the number of calories you burn, such as increasing your intensity or your speed.  Further on in this article, we will take a closer look and find out why mountain biking could potentially burn more calories in the long run

Why Running Burns More Calories Than Mountain Biking

Generally speaking, running will burn more calories than mountain biking, the following table is an estimation of calories burnt by a male with an average weight:

ActivityCalories burnt per 30 minsCalories burnt per 60 mins
Mountain bike at a moderate pace+/- 160 calories+/- 320 calories
Running at a moderate pace+/- 290 calories+/- 580 calories
Athletic woman sitting

In general, running burns more calories than mountain biking because it is using more of the body and the muscles at any given time and one has to mountain bike roughly two times longer than a runner runs to get similar results.

ActivityMuscles Used
Mountain BikingQuadriceps
Core muscles
Calf muscles
Upper body
Core muscles
Hip Flexors
Calf muscles

When it comes to the age-old debate of running versus mountain biking, one of the key factors to consider is the number of calories burned. And in this battle, running takes the crown. But why exactly does running burn more calories than mountain biking?

Firstly, let’s delve into the mechanics of these two activities. Running is a high-impact exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

When you run, your entire body is in motion – from your legs propelling you forward to your arms swinging rhythmically by your side. This full-body engagement requires a significant amount of energy expenditure, making running an excellent calorie-burning activity.

On the other hand, mountain biking primarily uses the lower body muscles – particularly those in your legs – to power you forward as you navigate through challenging terrains. Although it provides a great cardiovascular workout and strengthens leg muscles, it may not engage as many muscle groups as running does.

This limited muscle involvement means that mountain biking burns fewer calories overall compared to running. Additionally, another crucial factor contributing to the calorie discrepancy between these two activities is intensity.

Running tends to be more intense in nature compared to mountain biking due to factors such as higher impact and elevated heart rate levels. The heightened intensity during running increases both aerobic and anaerobic energy expenditure, resulting in a higher calorie burn.

Furthermore, let’s not forget about one crucial element that affects calorie burn: weight-bearing exercise. Running is a weight-bearing activity as we propel our bodies against gravity with each stride we take.

This constant impact increases bone density and stimulates muscle growth while incinerating calories along the way. In contrast, mountain biking is considered non-weight-bearing since our bodies are supported by the bike and saddle throughout most of our ride.

While this aspect reduces strain on joints and can be advantageous for individuals with joint-related issues or injuries, it also means that there’s less overall resistance against gravity during cycling. All things considered, it becomes evident that running surpasses mountain biking in terms of calorie burn.

However, it’s important to remember that individual factors such as weight, intensity of the activity, and duration also play significant roles in determining calorie expenditure. So whether you prefer the thrill of pounding the pavement or conquering muddy trails on your bike, both activities bring their own unique benefits to your overall fitness journey.

Is It Better to Run or Bike to Lose Weight?

When it comes to losing weight, many people wonder if it’s better to hit the pavement and run or hop on a bike and pedal away. The answer, my friends, is not as straightforward as you might think. Both running and biking can be effective ways to shed those extra pounds, but there are some factors you should consider before making your choice.

Let’s start with running. This high-impact activity is a fantastic calorie burner.

When you run, your entire body is engaged in the movement, causing your heart rate to skyrocket and your muscles to work overtime. Not only does this help burn calories during your run, but it also has a lasting effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

EPOC means that even after you finish lacing up your sneakers and collapse on the couch with a well-deserved snack (healthy ones, of course!), your body continues burning calories at an elevated rate for hours. On the other hand, biking also has its weight-loss perks.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise that puts less stress on your joints compared to running. This makes it an excellent option for individuals who may have joint issues or are more prone to injuries.

Biking utilizes many of the major muscle groups in your lower body – quads, hamstrings, calves – giving them a serious workout without putting excessive strain on them. The key difference between running and biking when it comes to weight loss lies in intensity and duration.

Running tends to be more intense than biking due to factors such as increased impact on joints and higher heart rate variability. This means that during a shorter amount of time spent running, you can burn more calories compared to cycling within the same time frame.

However, biking has its own advantages too! Since cycling is a low-impact exercise that allows for longer durations without excessive fatigue or discomfort, it can lead to higher calorie burn over extended periods of time.

So, if you enjoy long, leisurely rides through picturesque landscapes, you can still achieve significant weight loss results. Ultimately, the choice between running and biking for weight loss boils down to personal preference and individual circumstances.

If you’re looking for a high-intensity workout that torches calories in a shorter amount of time, running might be your best bet. On the other hand, if joint health is a concern or you simply enjoy the freedom of exploring on two wheels, biking can certainly contribute to your weight loss journey.

Remember that consistency and enjoyment play crucial roles in any exercise routine to ensure long-term success. So lace up those running shoes or hop on that bike – whichever path you choose, stay committed and watch those pounds melt away!

Injuries And Ways to Avoid Them

Injuries are an unfortunate part of any physical activity, including mountain biking and running. However, with proper precautions and awareness, you can greatly reduce the risk of getting hurt.

Joint pain

Let’s take a closer look at some common injuries associated with mountain biking and running and explore ways to avoid them. When it comes to mountain biking, one of the most common injuries is falls or crashes.

Whether it’s hitting an obstacle on the trail or losing control on a downhill section, accidents can happen. To minimize the risk of such incidents, it is crucial to wear appropriate safety gear such as a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads.

These protective measures can absorb impact and prevent severe injuries like concussions or fractures. Another injury commonly associated with mountain biking is overuse injuries.

The repetitive motions involved in pedaling can lead to problems like tendonitis or bursitis. To prevent these issues, it is essential to gradually increase your mileage and intensity over time while allowing your body enough rest for recovery.

Additionally, maintaining good bike fit by adjusting seat height and handlebar position will help avoid unnecessary strain on your joints. When it comes to running, knee injuries are often a concern due to the high-impact nature of the activity.

Conditions such as runner’s knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome can arise from improper technique or inadequate strength in supporting muscles. To safeguard against these issues, focus on maintaining proper running form by landing lightly on your midfoot rather than heel striking.

Strengthening exercises for key muscle groups like quadriceps and glutes will also provide stability and reduce strain on your knees. It’s worth noting that both mountain biking and running share a potential risk of sprained ankles due to uneven terrain or unexpected obstacles in their respective environments.

Wearing ankle braces or supportive shoes can help stabilize your ankles during these activities. Preventing injuries while engaging in mountain biking or running involves taking proactive measures such as wearing appropriate safety gear, gradually increasing intensity, maintaining good form and bike fit, and strengthening supporting muscles.

By being mindful of potential risks and implementing these precautions, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of injuries and enjoy these activities to the fullest while staying safe. Remember, it’s always better to be cautious than to endure weeks or months of recovery from an avoidable injury.

Mountain BikingSkin abrasions
Knee pain
Lower back pain
Joint sprain
Carpal tunnel
Broken collarbone
RunningRunner’s knee
Shin splints
Hamstring injuries
Plantar Fasciitis – a foot injury.
Stress fractures

Here are some of the factors which may influence how many calories we burn during activities such as running and mountain biking.

Boddy weight:How much we weigh is a factor that influences how many calories we burn during activity. Essentially if we carry more weight, we will need more energy to propel us forward.
Weather:Outside factors such as the weather can influence how many calories we burn during a run or a mountain bike session. For example, if it is windy our bodies will have to work harder to move forward against the wind if it comes toward us. The same applies to other conditions such as rain or heat which can also affect the number of calories burnt.
Speed:The speed at which we run or mountain bike may influence the number of calories we burn. We can choose our speed by the types of terrain we choose such as mountains, hills, or even sand.
Body composition:Muscle needs more calories than fat, even when not exercising. The more muscle mass you engage in the activity the more calories you burn.

How Can You Burn More Calories Mountain Biking?

When it comes to burning more calories while mountain biking, there are a few key strategies you can employ to maximize your calorie-burning potential. Let’s dive into some effective ways to rev up your calorie burn on the trails. First and foremost, it’s important to tackle more challenging terrain.

Seek out trails that feature steep inclines, technical sections, and rugged terrain. Riding on uneven surfaces requires more effort from your muscles and engages your core and upper body to maintain balance.

Uphill climbs demand increased exertion as you pedal against gravity, which ultimately results in a higher calorie burn compared to riding on flat or easy trails. Another way to up the ante in terms of calorie burning is by incorporating interval training into your mountain biking sessions.

Instead of maintaining a steady pace throughout your ride, incorporate short bursts of intense effort followed by periods of active recovery. For example, try pedaling at maximum intensity for 30 seconds and then easing off for 90 seconds before repeating the cycle.

This type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to boost metabolism and enhance fat burning even after the workout is over. In addition to challenging terrain and interval training, longer rides can also help you burn more calories while mountain biking.

As you increase your time spent on the bike, you naturally increase your overall energy expenditure during each session. Aim for longer rides at least once or twice a week, gradually increasing both distance and duration as your fitness level improves.

Don’t forget about the importance of proper nutrition before hitting the trails. Fueling your body with a balanced meal or snack that includes carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle repair will enable you to push harder and ride longer, ultimately resulting in more calories burned.

By incorporating these strategies into your mountain biking routine – tackling challenging terrain, implementing interval training, aiming for longer rides, and fueling properly – you can optimize calorie burning during each session on two wheels. So, get out there, explore new trails, and watch those calories melt away as you pedal your way to fitness!

If you what to know more about the muscles involved in mountain biking read the following article: Is mountain biking a full-body workout?

Combining Running And Mountain Biking In Your Fitness Regime

Now that we’ve discussed the calorie-burning benefits of both running and mountain biking, you might be wondering if it’s possible to combine the two activities in your fitness regime. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible, but it can also be incredibly beneficial for your overall fitness level.

One way to incorporate both running and mountain biking into your routine is by alternating between the two on different days. For example, you could go for a run one day and then hit the trails on your mountain bike the next.

This variety not only keeps things interesting but also allows you to engage different muscle groups. Another approach is to combine running and mountain biking within a single workout.

One way to do this is by starting with a run as a warm-up and then transitioning into your mountain biking session. This can help improve your cardiovascular endurance while also challenging different muscle groups in your legs.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even try what’s known as brick training. This involves doing a run immediately after a bike ride or vice versa.

It might sound intimidating at first, but trust me, it’s an excellent way to push yourself and see significant improvements in both speed and endurance. When combining running and mountain biking, it’s crucial to listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time for recovery between sessions, especially when incorporating high-intensity workouts like brick training. Remember that rest days are just as important as active ones since they allow your body to recover and repair itself.

By incorporating both running and mountain biking into your fitness regime, you’ll not only burn more calories but also promote overall cardiovascular health while building strength in various muscle groups throughout your body. So lace up those running shoes, strap on that helmet, and get ready for an exciting adventure of burning calories while enjoying the great outdoors!


When it comes to deciding whether running or mountain biking burns more calories, there are several factors to consider. Running generally tends to burn more calories due to the higher intensity and impact on the body.

The constant pounding of your feet on the ground puts your muscles and cardiovascular system under significant stress, leading to a higher calorie burn. However, this doesn’t mean that mountain biking is any less effective in terms of overall fitness and weight loss.

If you enjoy the thrill of exploring nature while gliding through trails on your mountain bike, don’t be discouraged by the slightly lower calorie burn compared to running. Mountain biking provides its own set of benefits such as improved balance, coordination, and lower impact on joints.

It also engages different muscle groups like your core and upper body as you navigate through rough terrains and maneuver around obstacles. To maximize calorie burn during mountain biking sessions, incorporate intervals into your rides.

Utilize bursts of intense pedaling followed by short recovery periods. This will not only elevate your heart rate but also challenge your muscles in different ways.

Remember that weight loss or burning calories is not solely dependent on one activity alone; it is about creating a sustainable lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. So why not combine both running and mountain biking in your fitness regime?

Alternate between these activities throughout the week to keep things interesting while targeting different muscle groups. Overall, whether you choose running or mountain biking largely depends on personal preference and physical capability.

Both activities have their unique advantages when it comes to burning calories and improving overall fitness levels. So embrace whichever activity brings you joy and gets you moving – after all, staying active is what truly matters!

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.