My wife has been trying to get me to do interval training (e.g. bike hard for 30s and then take it easy for 4-5 mins) instead of ride a stationary bike, mainly so she can be outside and we can interact more instead of be on separate machines at the gym (which she finds tedious).

My routine is normally to ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes and keep my heart rate over 160 the entire time (at least, once I get there from whatever my starting heart rate is).

We've gone for a ride and I watch my heartrate and it barely gets to 135 when I push it (usually leaving her behind and then wait for her to catch up). We rode for about an hour or so. I didn't get nearly as sweaty as I do on the stationary bike.

I feel like this isn't nearly as effective as my usual stationary bike routine. How can I compare these 2 methods? How can I tell if I'm getting as good of a workout to achieve my weight loss goals?

I keep nagging her to go to the gym with me and she keeps wanting to run/walk on a trail in the forest or bike on a trail and I just simply feel like it's not a good workout.

  • Heart rate and sweating are largely irrelevant for permanent weight loss.
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:06
  • It's best to do a little bit of both.
    – Wood
    Commented Sep 21, 2019 at 3:16

4 Answers 4


According to Harvard Medical School, a 155 lbs (70 kg) person during moderate stationary cycling for 30 minutes loses 260 Calories (cycling outside 12-14 mph or ~20 km/h = 300 Calories). So, even if these values are not the same as in your routines, they seem to be similar.

During cycling outside, the wind can blow off the sweat before you even notice it, so you may not be able to estimate the exercise effort by the extent of sweating.

You can also avoid getting 260 Calories by not eating a single food item:

So, why not to try to lose weight in a relatively easy way by stopping eating a single food?


Weight loss is ultimately going to come down diet. It is very difficult to outwork a bad diet. So I'd dial that in first and then just enjoy the outdoor time with your wife as you melt fat from a calorie deficit.


I would suggest the lack of sweat is related to the lack of airflow on a stationary bike. Assuming you are using the same HRM, your heart rate won't lie, but there could be many factors for the higher HR (eg. it could be the result of your body working harder to cool itself).

There are many benefits to outdoor cycling; targeting more muscle groups by getting out of the saddle and flicking the bike around, pushing past your normal limits to finish a climb, learning bike control, focusing your eyes on distant objects, etc.

I guess your main issue is the speed difference with your partner. You might be able to pick a loop with multiple options to reach the same point? (eg. one flat vs one hilly). Or you might push ahead and do some hill repeats while waiting for them to catchup?

For the weight loss aim, I think it's purely subjective as our bodies have different requirements. My opinion is that lower intensity workouts over a longer period of time will burn more fat, and shorter/higher intensity workouts will burn more sugar. But I do not doubt that other people get better results with the opposite.

I say go with what works for you =)


IMO, you're comparing apples to oranges not the least because you've developed an efficient cardiovascular system that can sustain (I'm guessing a lower resting heart rate) higher loads. As far as exertion goes, you're right- you probably didn't sweat much or feel that 'burn'. I strongly believe you're working out 2 very different metabolic systems in your body when you do high intensity for shorter periods vs lower intensity over longer periods. The body has 3 primary metabolic systems that power you through various needs. Selecting exercise routines based on which metabolic system you want to target/train is a very popular way.

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