Spinning vs Running (on a Treadmill or Outdoors)

If you’re trying to figure out whether to use a treadmill or a spin bike, you’re on the right page.

We won’t lie to you; you’ll have to consider a lot of factors. And by a lot, we mean a lot.

Luckily, the most important ones relate to your needs, fitness level, goals, and preferences. Once you truly get a good sense of what you like and what your body can do, picking the right machine comes naturally.

That’s what we’ll teach you in the article below.

To make things easier, we’ll boil this comparison down to spinning vs running/walking – including running/walking outdoors. 

Keep reading below!

Spinning vs Running Weight Loss

spinning vs running for weight loss

Both spinning and running are fantastic weight loss tools if you’re looking at the calories burned during these exercises:

  • Spinning: around 200 calories at a steady pace, while in an intense spinning class you’ll burn between 400-600 calories.
  • Running: 30 minutes with burn between 280 and 520 calories.

Of course, these numbers depend on a slew of variables that affect how hard your body is burning those calories. Basically, you’re looking at your energy expenditure, measured in watts.

This measurement depends on your age, biological sex, preexisting endocrine conditions, current weight, current muscle to fat percentage, etc. 

It also depends on how hard you can work out on a specific machine:

  • Many people hate running because they’re not comfortable being in motion while their heart rates are sky-rocketing. From that point of view, it’s much safer (or perceived as such) to have physical support.
  • Many people hate spinning because it’s humbling. Even if you’re in good physical shape, spinning activates your muscles from different angles. You’ll have to alternate sitting and standing, plus your workouts have you choosing specific speeds and resistances. Thus, spinning may obliterate your expectations in the first few minutes of your training.

Related: Is Spinning a Good Way to Lose Weight?


  • You can increase/decrease difficulty for both activities by fiddling with your speed, resistance, and treadmill incline.
  • Both workouts provide tremendous cardio benefits and help you burn many calories.

Walking for Weight Loss

Walking for weight loss is hugely underrated. Your heart rate can easily reach the fat-burning zone at just 6 km/h if you’re also pumping your arms.

Besides, if you increase the incline, you can double the calories burned.

By comparison, slow spinning doesn’t have the same effect on your heart rate. Although spinning at low speed is still moving – and you should always congratulate yourself for showing up – it burns fewer calories.

Running/Walking Outdoors Weight Loss

Running/walking outdoor may speed up weight loss if:

  • You’re taking in plenty of fresh air instead of polluted air.
  • You’re the kind of person who gets captivated by the great, beautiful outdoors and thus tend to prolong your run/walk.

However, some factors can affect weight loss if you’re running/walking outdoor:

  • Slowing down to admire various views or talking to people
  • Rewarding yourself with pastries or sweets as you’re running past cafés
  • Not pushing yourself hard enough because you can’t focus or are too self-conscious to sweat it out in public
  • Not replacing outdoor walking/running in bad weather 

Spin bike vs Treadmill Muscles Worked

spin bike vs treadmill muscles worked

Both spinning and running target your legs comprehensively. Spinning targets your butt muscles, lower back, and arms better, though.

That means spinning can help you sculpt your body faster and burn more calories.

However, running works your abs better, and you can always choose a model with built-in resistance bands to activate your upper body.

Spinning isn’t perfect either.

For example, pedaling while seated doesn’t work your upper body or mid-section too much.

Pro tip: If you’re running at low speeds (up to 8 km/h), hold onto light hand weights to sculpt your arms, shoulders, and upper back.


You can use both your spin bike and treadmill to sculpt your muscles, but that means choosing the right models. Get a spin bike with enough resistance and a treadmill with incline and upper body bands to work out your entire body.

Muscles Gained Walking 

Walking on the treadmill is strenuous for your muscles, but that’s what makes them grow. To maximize your gains, remember to increase your incline and hold onto weights, or use the treadmill’s incorporated arm bands.

Muscles Gained Running/Walking Outdoors 

Running/walking outdoors poses an exciting challenge for your lower body muscles as the terrain changes below your feet. As such, you may arguably sculpt your muscles more comprehensively.

The key to doing that is avoiding the temptations we mentioned earlier: treats along the way, losing time, and not challenging yourself appropriately.

Spinning vs Running Belly Fat Loss

spin bike vs treadmill running for belly fat

Both spinning and running accelerate belly fat loss because they’re cardio activities and help you build lean muscle. However:

  • Running helps you contract your abs more, especially when setting a high incline on your treadmill.
  • Spinning may raise your heart rate faster to reach that fat-burning zone. That means you can shed overall body fat more quickly to ultimately make your abs more visible.


Both running and spinning accelerate belly fat loss, but you have to purchase the right machine and do the right exercises that help you achieve this goal. Your form is essential too.

Walking for Belly Fat Loss

You don’t have to run on a treadmill to see your abdomen become more sculpted and shapely. Walking can work just as well if you remember to contract your abs and focus on that twisting motion.

Pro tips:

  • Walking at an incline engages your abs even more and puts your heart rate in the fat-burning zone.
  • A mechanical, curved treadmill is better at engaging your abs because you’ll have to work harder to maintain that stability. Besides, it’s easier to catch speed and challenge yourself appropriately on this type of running band.

Running/Walking Outdoors for Belly Fat Loss

There aren’t any studies to suggest that running/walking outside burns more deep-tissue belly fat. However: 

  • Being outdoors gives you more vitamin D and helps your body secrete more dopamine. As such, you tend to have more motivation, plus vitamin D helps regulate your metabolism so that you can ultimately accelerate fat loss.
  • Running/walking indoors may help you focus better. Avoiding distractions is key to pushing yourself properly and, thus, seeing more progress.

As you can see, this issue is more about personal preferences than anything else.

That brings us to the following point:

Spinning vs Treadmill Running Perceived Effort

spin bike or treadmill

Your perceived effort increases if it feels you’re pushing harder and have no support. On the other hand, your perceived effort also climbs if your muscles feel weak during a particular activity.

Thus, running on the treadmill may seem more brutal if movement increases your anxiety, whereas spinning may seem more demanding if you dislike the associated weakness.

Here’s what makes things easier:


This reward hormone will facilitate your brain’s epinephrine production, which is basically a hormone that increases your energy levels. 

How do you get your body to secrete more dopamine during your workouts?

  • Try to focus on the beauty of working out, especially when it feels incredibly hard. Trying to get a reward or pleasure just when you achieve a specific goal (e.g., losing 5 pounds or getting two extra centimeters around your thighs) doesn’t let you enjoy your journey.
  • Purchase a spin bike or treadmill that gives you access to specific group workouts. Going with the flow of a group makes it easier to get into a high rhythm and thus challenge your perceived limits.


Both spinning and walking have high perceived efforts, especially compared to high calorie-burning machines like ellipticals.

Perceived Effort Walking

Walking has a lower perceived effort because it’s less intense. However, it’s easier to lose sight of your goals and forget to challenge yourself.

If you’re new to working out or don’t have a specific goal, go for a stroll. This laid-back stroll will keep your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones healthy.

Running/Walking Outdoors Perceived Effort

Running or walking outdoors may have a lower perceived effort because your environment constantly changes. Besides, you’re getting higher on dopamine because you have more palpable milestones (e.g., each familiar building or park along the way). 

By comparison, running/walking inside is more abstract and can become more stressful as you’re constantly watching the time or the calorie calculator to see how far you are from achieving your goal.

Spinning vs Running with Preexisting Health Conditions 

treadmills compared to spinning bikes

Running isn’t recommended if you have joint pain or lower back pain. However, your physical therapist can recommend safe positions on your spin bike to protect your back. 

Besides, spinning is friendlier on your joints if you’re sitting down because you’re not putting as much pressure on them.

However, treadmills don’t pose any problems if you’re having hand arthritis, while spinning may increase wrist & hand pain.

Those aren’t the only health conditions to consider. You can also experience anxiety, ADHD, pelvic floor prolapse, bladder issues, and other issues.

That brings us to the next point:


Talk with your health care provider before purchasing any equipment if you have existing health concerns. Remember that both spinning and running increase your heart rate, so you should always consult your specialist if you have preexisting heart issues, including high blood pressure.

Also, research points to a link between spinning and rhabdomyolysis. This condition basically entails working out your muscles so much until they begin to break down and poison your kidneys.

So, always avoid excruciating workouts that feel like punishments instead of energizing activities.

Walking with Preexisting Health Conditions 

Walking is easier on your body than running or spinning. Besides, it’s more calming, and thus it’s recommended as a practical tool in various conditions. 

Studies show that walking can help you recuperate faster after gallbladder surgery, specific knee injuries, or giving birth. It also improves your mood and sleep, helping alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Running/Walking Outdoors with Preexisting Health Conditions

Running and walking outdoors may better affect your mood and sleep thanks to increased exposure to light and higher oxygen intake. However, running/walking outdoors may be more dangerous if you have less stability or need to sit frequently.

Wrap Up

Now that you’ve finished reading this article, you understand how to evaluate spinning and running through the lens of your needs.

Always heed your body and mind.

Also, choose the right machine that helps you achieve those goals. Remember, there are different types of spin bikes and treadmills on the market. Some are better for cardio, others for balance, and others for building muscles.

Mary D. Brown

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