Dancing and cycling are both very popular forms of exercise and if you ask a dancer or a cyclist which you should choose, they will each wax lyrical about the benefits of their chosen sport. This can make it almost impossible to decide which one would be best for you. And, of course, there are all sorts of different goals that people are trying to achieve when they are picking up a new fitness regime, and those goals are going to inform what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to lose weight, get fit, build muscle, or just be happier, read on to see whether dancing or cycling would be the right choice for you.

Dancing vs cycling for building muscle

Building muscle isn’t just for weightlifters. Building muscle is important for everyone. If you build muscle you will look more toned because when you are toned, what you’re seeing are visible muscles. And you need to build them up a bit if you want people to see them! Not only that but building muscle can also help you to burn more calories, since muscles use more calories than fat, even when you’re not doing a thing. Having more muscle will also mean that your joints are more supported, which can help to keep them stable. And if your joints are stable then you are less likely to injure yourself.


When you cycle, you are sitting in a stationary position while making constant pushing and pulling resistance movements with your legs. Cycling can help to build muscle in your lower body, including your:

  • Gluteals
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors

Your core, back, and upper body will also be working while you’re cycling, but not to a great enough extent to build muscle.


The difference between dancing and cycling in terms of the muscle groups used is huge. When you cycle, you are in a sitting position and moving your legs in a repetitive motion. When you dance, however, you make a huge variety of moves that incorporate all of your major muscle groups. This variety of movements and the use of your entire body means that you will build a wider range of muscles, including your:

  • Feet
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Gluteals
  • Back
  • Core
  • Abdominals
  • Arms
  • Shoulders


If you are looking to build muscle throughout your body, then you should choose dancing. It builds a wider variety of muscles and the big movements involved in dance mean that you will build muscle and strength quickly.

Dancing vs cycling for weight loss

Losing weight can be such a challenging thing for so many people. It is tied up in our emotions and our psychology in such a tangled way that it can be really hard to make the right choices, or even know what the right choices are. Taking up a new exercise can be a really positive way to help you achieve your weight-loss goals because it is active, fun, and will help you to feel good in your body.

If you are using exercise to help you reach your weight-loss goals, it will be important to you to burn as many calories you can, as efficiently as possible. To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. In other words, you need to be taking in fewer calories than you burn. This will force your body to use the energy that has been stored in your body as fat. One way that you can create a calorie deficit is to eat less, and another way is to do more exercise.


The number of calories you burn while cycling depends on a lot of factors: your age, weight, height, fitness level, as well as how intense your cycling session is. You can expect to burn between 450 and 600 calories per hour. This makes cycling one of the best ways of easily burning hundreds of calories per session.


Just like with cycling, the number of calories you burn while dancing will depend on your personal factors, as well as the type and intensity of dancing that you do. Because of how varied dancing can be, the range is a fair bit larger, but you could be burning between 150 and 650 calories per hour. Sedate dance types like ballroom dancing are at the lower end (and you probably wouldn’t be looking at them to help you lose weight anyway), and intense dance styles like Zumba, swing, or breakdancing are at the higher end.


It’s a tie! You can burn a similar amount of calories cycling or dancing, although the top calorie burn goes to breakdancing at 650 calories per hour.

Dancing vs cycling to get fitter

If you want to get fit, then finding the right exercise program is vitally important. Getting your body into peak physical condition involves a lot more than just dropping fat or getting big muscles. There are 5 key elements of fitness:

  • Cardiovascular endurance – the ability of the heart and lungs to work together for long periods to provide the body with the oxygen it needs
  • Muscular strength – the amount of force a muscle can produce
  • Muscular endurance – how long a muscle can perform without fatiguing
  • Flexibility – the ability of each joint to move through its entire available range of motion
  • Body composition – fat mass vs lean muscle mass, bone, and organs

All of these different elements need to be taken into consideration if you’re trying to get fit.


Cardiovascular enduranceCycling is a great cardiovascular exercise, and it will improve your cardiovascular endurance
Muscular strengthCycling can improve the muscular strength in your legs, but not the muscles in your torso or upper body
Muscle enduranceCycling is an endurance exercise, and it will improve the muscular endurance in your legs (but again not the rest of your body)
FlexibilityCycling doesn’t really help to improve your flexibility
Body compositionCycling can help you to lose fat and this will help to improve your body composition.


Cardiovascular enduranceBecause of the constant movements that you make, dancing is a cardiovascular exercise and will improve your cardiovascular endurance
Muscular strengthDancing can improve the strength of muscles throughout your body. In particular, your lower body, core, abdominals, and back. Some dance styles will also build muscle in your upper body
Muscle enduranceDancing can improve muscular endurance throughout your body
FlexibilityDancing is one of the best exercise types to improve your flexibility in every joint of your body
Body compositionDancing will help you to lose fat and build muscle, so will improve your body composition


Dancing is a better choice for overall fitness than cycling. The main benefits of cycling are focused on cardiovascular endurance, body composition, and improving strength and endurance in the lower body. Dancing, on the other hand, also improves cardiovascular endurance and body composition, but it also improves muscular strength and endurance in all areas of the body, and it also improves flexibility.

Dancing vs cycling for making you happy

Exercise isn’t just great for your body, it also does wonders for your mind. If you’re looking to get out and have fun, to reduce your anxiety, improve your mood, and improve your self-confidence, then a new exercise will definitely help you. Both dancing and cycling are cardiovascular exercises, which means that they will help to improve your mood. When your heart rate goes up and you get active, your body release “happy hormones”, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. It also reduces the number of stress hormones it produces. So, either exercise will give you a mood boost.


As well as boosting your happy hormones, cycling also has other elements that can make you happier. If you’re on a bicycle outdoors, then you will get a mood boost from being out in the fresh air in nature. This can help to reduce your stress and anxiety. If you cycle as part of a cycling club, or if you cycle indoors in a spin class, you will be exercising with other people. Social interaction is vitally important for maintaining our mental health.


Dancing also helps to boost your happy hormones, and it also has other mood-boosting elements. Dancing in a group can help to create strong social bonds because you are all working together to be in sync, and this is a powerful way of feeling close to other people. Dancing also means that you are moving in time with music. Music on its own can help to lower your stress and promote relaxation. When you move at the same time as music, then both the effects of the music and the effects of the movement on your mood and mental health are amplified. Learning steps and routines can help to improve your cognitive function and it can give you a strong sense of achievement and a boost to your self-confidence.


Beyond being outside (if you cycle outside), dancing is, on balance, more likely to provide you with the chance to have a boost in your mood and a reduction in your stress levels.

Final thoughts

As you’ve probably guessed, dancing comes out on top on 3/4 of the goals that we have looked at (and tied on the other 1). Dancing is just such a good all-rounder when it comes to fitness, weight loss, muscle-building, and mood enhancement. So, whatever box you are trying to tick, dancing is going to be a great choice for you!

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