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Cycling and weight loss - WillCycle
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Cycling and weight loss

Want to know the secret to losing weight instantly? Want weight loss without putting in the effort? Think you can keep indulging and lose weight? Want answers that suit your wants and needs?

Well, in that case, you’re flat out of luck! With weight loss, just as with building fitness, there is no magic cure. There is no “one weird old trick doctors don’t want you to know”.
However, there are science-based strategies to ensure you stay on the right path.

Why lose weight anyway?

If the reason you want to lose weight is for other people – as in, you want to change the way they perceive you – then you’re off to a very shaky start. Sure, you might succeed, but the simple truth is you’ll be far more likely to succeed if you want to lose weight for you.

Ignore the unhealthy-skinny models in magazines (in fact, avoid pretty much all fashion and beauty magazines, as those are designed to make you feel inferior, so you feel compelled to buy products that tell you fairy tales).

We are all different, and differently built. If you’re unhappy with being overweight, do not be fooled into thinking that being the “right” weight will magically bring you happiness. Having said that, the health benefits of losing weight are enormous, and indisputable. Balance that against the mental health issues caused by constantly being made to feel inferior, due to being overweight.

Especially women are on the receiving end of that. For some reason, “dad bods” are acceptable, but “mom bods” somehow are frowned upon (if not outright ridiculed!)

Fat doesn’t always equal unfit

Do not mistake being overweight with being unfit! There are some overweight people who are surprisingly fit. There’s an important lesson behind this: exercise alone can lead to weight loss, but on it’s own is unlikely to achieve the weight loss results you may be after.

Also, just in case it wasn’t already clear in your mind, the appropriate response to seeing an overweight person doing any form of exercise is to quietly encourage them (if you know them, else simply stay quiet) and NOT to ridicule them.

Avoid crash diets!

Before you proceed to tell me about that one time your neighbour’s second cousin’s best friend’s sister having lost half her body weight in two weeks, using the latest new diet craze, stop and think. If you are overweight, it didn’t happen over two weeks, did it? We become overweight because there’s an imbalance between calories consumed, versus calories burned, and I expect that in most cases that imbalance is fairly small.

What that means is we slowly put on extra weight. Because that happens slowly, our eating and exercise patterns become habits, and changing those habits for just two weeks might lead to temporary weight loss, but is highly unlikely to result in the weight staying off!

Instead, what we need is to change those eating and exercise habits, and tip the scales a little, so that we start burning more calories than what we consume. Of course that is a huge oversimplification, and there are many other factors involved, but as a basic premise, it holds true.

Cycling to lose weight

Cycling a great way to exercise your cardiovascular system, but it doesn’t give you a whole-body workout. Despite that, especially for obese people, at risk of knee injuries or similar when running, cycling may be a far safer, more enjoyable way to exercise.

A Harvard study published in 2010 shows cycling to be particularly good in helping obese, or overweight women to lose weight, though of course men benefit, too.

Another study showed that cycle commuting was very successful in improving fitness, increasing the VO2 max rate (more in men, than women) and goes on to state “The greatest health benefits are achieved when the least active individuals become moderately active”. Interestingly, that study proves that just single 3km trip, cycled regularly, can be enough to start tipping the scales.

A further study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows that commuter cycling alone is sufficient exercise to meet the requirements for improving cardiorespiratory fitness.

Undoubtedly cycling is an efficient way of burning more calories, and when done as cycle commuting, you will be creating those new habits needed to have sustainable weight loss in the longer term.

However, it is important to also reduce your calorie intake, alongside an exercise programme. As ever though, the devil is in the detail, and we are all different. As a result, I would suggest first having a chat with your GP about any big changes you plan to make to your diet, and your exercise programme.


Cycle commuting can also be a great way to build your fitness in preparation for going cycle touring. While cycle touring, you may find your greatest challenge is to consume enough calories for each day’s riding.

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