Is Spinning or Running a Better Workout?

No matter who you are, your time is valuable. In everything you do, maximizing the benefits of how you use your time is incredibly important. That way, you can do more of what you love, particularly doing more fun things with family and friends.

This especially applies to more onerous aspects of our day-to-day lives, including our workouts. We want to get the most benefits for our overall physical health, and payoffs for mental health, relationships, and other areas of our lives are nice, too.

Spinning and running are two of the most common exercises that you can engage in, both in the gym and outside. But which one gives you the better workout? Which one makes the best use of your precious time?

Spinning is a better workout because it can potentially burn more calories and is a lot easier on your knees and hip compared to running. Running can burn around 600 to 800 calories in 60 minutes, and spinning can burn up to 750 to 1000 calories in 60 minutes.

Whether spinning or running is better for you also depends on a number of factors, including your fitness level, overall goals, and personal preferences. It may also come down to your body type and health history.

In this article, we’ll look at the myriad benefits of both activities. Then, we’ll examine some other factors that you should take into consideration when deciding on a workout routine, including your mental health, lifestyle, finances, and more.

Benefits of Spinning

First, let’s look at some of the biggest benefits of taking a spin class (or biking outside) regularly.

  • Burn calories: One of the top reasons that people workout in the first place is to burn calories and control their weight, and in this category, spinning delivers. The number of calories burned varies widely depending on your body size and shape, intensity level, and more. Suffice it to say, though, that if your goal is to torch a significant number of kcals, spinning is a good go-to.
  • Heart health: The best exercises for your heart are not ones that raise your beats per minute and sustain that higher number, but workouts that intermittently raise your heart rate with rest times in between. Spinning does this much better than running, since most spin classes involve cool down or rest periods at crucial intervals.
  • Bones and joints: Spinning is fairly easy on your joints and bones. Especially as we age, we have to be careful about straining our bodies past a healthy level. Compared to running, spinning is much easier on joints and bones and less likely to inflict injuries.
  • Total body workout: Many spinners will feel their workout mostly in their legs and glutes, but if you pay close attention to your spin teachers’ instructions, you should feel it in your arms and abs the next day, as well.
  • Easily customizable: It’s easy to customize a spinning workout by adjusting the resistance of your pedals, your speed, or choosing a different route (if you’re biking outdoors). Even in a structured class, most instructors will provide modifications for various fitness levels. That way, spinning is easy to get into as a beginner and provides ongoing opportunities for challenging yourself.

Benefits of Running

Next, we’ll look at the benefits of running along many of the same parameters as our evaluation of spinning above.

  • Burn calories: Running burns a tremendous number of calories and helps build lean muscle. What’s more, there are lots of ways that you can increase your calories burned, including speeding up your tempo, running hills, and even wearing more layers while running.
  • Heart health: Running can help lower your resting heart rate and your risk of heart disease. Cardiovascular exercise in general has the potential to do both of these things, but no other singular type of exercise has yielded the same amazing results as running in terms of heart health in study after study.
  • Bones and joints: Running can support bone health, since it is a weight-bearing activity, though it isn’t always advisable. While running is not ideal for someone who is already suffering from bone density loss (because of the risk of fractures), it can spur bone growth for healthy bones. If you’re over 30, you may want to have a bone density scan done before beginning a running routine.
  • You can do it anywhere: All you need to run is a pair of sneakers. Therefore, it’s easy to take your workout (or hobby!) with you wherever you go. In order to spin, you’d need to find a gym or studio or take your bike along, which is not always possible or convenient.
  • Easy to track your progress: with running, it’s very easy to tell if you’re improving. Can you run faster or farther? Again, very simple to track. This kind of self-competition can be very good for your brain, as well.

The Other Reason to Exercise: Mental Health

More and more, people are looking to exercise for more than just the physical benefits. Exercise is also vital for maintaining good mental health. So, aside from the physical benefits of exercise, is there a better mental payoff between spinning and running? For some people, running might have an edge here.

Have you heard of mindfulness? Mental health workers and other gurus are practically shouting its benefits from the rooftops. You almost have to practice mindfulness while running, especially outdoors. The physical stress forces your brain to focus on the present, and you’re constantly observing objects in the road, cars, landmarks, and noticing other things about your surroundings, including smells and sounds. It’s harder to be mindful while spinning or cycling.

Another way that you can maximize your workout’s mental health benefits is by doing it outside. Regular time spent in the great outdoors is associated with lower depression and higher rates of satisfaction, plus you soak up vitamin D, which is important for overall health. Running and spinning can both be done outdoors.

Another way to feed your soul while working out is to use exercise to create community. Running with a friend (outdoor or treadmill) or taking a spin class as a group is a wonderful bonding experience. It’s also a great way to foster positive relationships while caring for your body. Who doesn’t love multitasking?

Other Factors to Consider

There are some other factors that you can take into consideration when deciding between spinning or running.

Lifestyle—Your lifestyle, rather than your body itself, can help determine which is the better exercise. If you need an instructor and peers to keep you motivated, definitely spinning. If you travel a lot and need something you can do almost anywhere, running is the best bet.

Financial Resources—If you don’t have a lot of money to invest in your new fitness hobby, then you’re probably better off running. While you may need to spend some dough on good shoes and outdoor gear, those costs pale in comparison to a gym membership or a bike. You can always return to spinning later if circumstances change or look for a gym that offers financial aid (YMCA’s are especially good for this).

Your schedule—Maybe pre-dawn is the only time you have to work out, and your nearby gym has a 5:00am spin class. Perfect! Plus, it’s much safer than running in the dark, especially if you live on a busy road or don’t have sidewalks.

Relationships—If you have friends who are avid spinners or runners, you might want to be able to join them. Alternatively, your partner might be passionate about one activity or another and you may be looking for something to call your own.

Family—Typically, running is easier to do with kids (either in their strollers, riding their bikes or skateboards, etc.), unless your local spin class has childcare available.

So, what is the Right Choice: Spinning or Running?

Like we said at the very start of this article, choosing between spinning and running as the better workout depends on a lot of factors. Both have tremendous benefits for a person’s overall wellbeing, especially when done in a healthy manner.

The short answer: it really depends on you. Whether you’re looking to prevent heart disease, develop better muscle tone, or improve your overall stamina, either spinning or running should fit your needs.

At the end of the day, the decision between spinning and running might come down to your personal preferences. If you enjoy one over the other, you’re more likely to get out the door and engage in it in the first place, and then stick with it even when it gets hard.

Bonus: You Don’t Have to Choose

If you’ve read to this point in the article and are still having trouble deciding between spinning and running, guess what? You don’t have to choose! Why not do both?

It’s best to find a balance and vary your workouts to target different muscle groups. You would be better off alternating between spinning and running than always choosing one over the other.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure you’re active at least a few times a week. Finding something that you enjoy that also works for your body is the key to creating a sustainable workout routine.