Cycling and Walking: Which Is the Better Workout for You?

Cycling vs. Walking. Which Is the Better Workout for You?
Cycling vs. Walking. Which Is the Better Workout for You?

Benefits of Cycling and Walking

  • Calorie expenditure
  • Engaging your muscles
  • Fat reduction
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Weight management

Aerobic exercise is vital for maintaining health and vitality. If you’re new to fitness or dealing with injuries or health issues, selecting the right aerobic exercise may be daunting.

Cycling and walking are among the most favored options. They can be tailored for beginners or those with injuries or health concerns. These activities offer lower impact than running or jumping rope and can be done indoors or outdoors, ensuring accessibility regardless of weather conditions.

Yet, they diverge in terms of expenses. Cycling demands a bicycle, whereas walking merely necessitates a pair of shoes (or none) and the determination to move. Consequently, you might ponder which provides a superior workout and which is more beneficial for your health.

Which burns more calories?

The number of calories burned through cycling and walking depends on the intensity of your workout. The table below illustrates approximately how many calories a 150-pound (68-kg) individual would expend in a 30-minute session.

IntensityBiking (calories and speed)Walking (calories and speed)
Light240 calories — 10–11.9 miles per hour (16–19.15 km/hr)154 calories — 3.5 miles per hour (5.6 km/hr)
Moderate285 calories — 12–13.9 miles per hour (19.3–22.4 km/hr)179 calories — 4.0 miles per hour (6.4 km/hr)
High357 calories — 14–15.9 miles per hour (22.5–25.6 km/hr)250 calories — 4.5 miles per hour (7.2 km/hr)
Calorie Comparison

Cycling typically burns more calories for the same intensity level during the same timeframe. Intensity can be likened to the perceived exertion rate.

If your goal is to burn calories efficiently within a limited timeframe, cycling might be the preferable choice.

In summary, cycling results in higher calorie burn compared to walking when performed at the same duration and intensity.

Which activity engages muscles more effectively?

Cycling and walking utilize many of the same muscles to generate force for movement. The gluteal muscles of the hip and hamstrings contribute to power generation in both activities.

These muscles experience increased activation as cycling speed escalates, particularly during standing pedal movements. Similarly, uphill walking or stair climbing enhances gluteal activation.

Quadriceps (knee extensors) play a more significant role in cycling than in walking, particularly during the downward or push phase while seated.

Calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius) are vital in both cycling and walking, propelling movement during the push phase in cycling and push-off phase in walking.

Therefore, while both activities engage similar muscle groups, cycling typically demands greater muscular exertion.

In summary, cycling and walking involve many of the same muscles for force production and movement. However, cycling generally imposes greater demands on muscle exertion.

Which activity is more effective for fat burning?

A study comparing the fat metabolism effects of cycling and walking discovered that walking resulted in higher fat metabolism than cycling when performed at the same intensity or perceived exertion rate.

Additionally, another study noted that weight-bearing exercises like walking and running were linked to reduced levels of a type of fat found in bone marrow compared to cycling.

In summary, walking tends to burn more fat than cycling, possibly due to its classification as a weight-bearing activity, unlike cycling.

Which activity promotes greater strength gains?

In a study examining muscular strength and hypertrophy, cycling was linked to increased strength.

Another study revealed that cycling led to enhanced strength and muscle hypertrophy, with older adults experiencing a more pronounced effect compared to younger adults. However, younger adults could achieve similar results at higher intensity levels.

Limited research exists on the strength-building effects of walking in healthy younger adults. Nonetheless, one study demonstrated increased strength among older sedentary individuals after initiating a walking regimen.

It’s possible that younger individuals may need to cycle at higher intensities to achieve comparable effects.

In summary, cycling may be more conducive to strength gains compared to walking, although further research is warranted.

Which is more effective for weight loss?

Weight loss entails increasing calorie expenditure relative to intake. One primary approach is to elevate activity levels while sensibly managing calorie consumption.

As depicted in the aforementioned table, cycling generally burns more calories within the same timeframe compared to walking.

Therefore, cycling might be the preferable option for weight loss if time for exercise is limited.

However, the optimal choice involves engaging in activities you enjoy while regulating calorie intake. Whether it’s cycling, walking, or a combination of both, incorporating variety can enhance adherence to a fitness regimen.

In summary, cycling could be more conducive to weight loss when time is constrained, but both forms of exercise contribute to weight management when paired with dietary control.

Which is more suitable for individuals with injuries?

Injuries are a common occurrence that can impede exercise routines. Finding a suitable activity to remain active while injured is essential, although the choice may hinge on the specific injury.

For instance, research has indicated a high prevalence of low back pain among cyclists, likely due to the prolonged flexed trunk posture associated with road cycling.

Conversely, recent studies have shown that walking can alleviate pain, reduce disability, and diminish activity avoidance in individuals with chronic low back pain.

Both walking and cycling have demonstrated efficacy in managing pain associated with knee osteoarthritis. Hence, both activities can be beneficial for joint pain stemming from arthritis. However, individual preferences and comfort levels may influence the choice between the two activities, particularly for those with other causes of joint pain.

If weight-bearing activities such as walking exacerbate pain, cycling may provide a more tolerable exercise option. Conversely, if the bent position of cycling exacerbates discomfort, walking might be preferable.

Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a family doctor, is advisable before initiating a walking or cycling regimen, especially if injuries or other health conditions are present. They can assist in selecting the exercise modality that aligns best with individual needs.

In summary, both cycling and walking are low-impact activities suitable for individuals with injuries. However, it’s essential to choose the activity that feels most comfortable for any existing injuries.

Who benefits from each activity, and who should refrain from them?

Cycling is advantageous for individuals who:

  • Have limited time for exercise.
  • Prefer a faster tempo.

For instance, cycling at a moderate pace typically burns more calories than walking at a similar pace. Moreover, cycling provides an opportunity to enhance lower-body strength.

However, individuals who find cycling unappealing or uncomfortable, particularly due to back pain or discomfort from prolonged sitting, may opt to avoid it.

Walking is beneficial for individuals who:

  • Experience bone density issues, such as osteoporosis.
  • Suffer from back pain.
  • Have budget constraints regarding bike and related gear investments.

However, walking may not be suitable for all types of pain. Individuals experiencing discomfort exacerbated by weight-bearing or upright positions may find cycling more tolerable.

In summary, cycling is advantageous for calorie burning and lower-body strength enhancement, while walking aids in bone density improvement and is generally more cost-effective than cycling.

How to make a decision:

Both cycling and walking offer effective workouts and are gentler on the body compared to other exercise forms.

If uncertain about which option to select, consider experimenting with both and determining which feels more comfortable and enjoyable. Even if lacking a bicycle, it could be beneficial to rent or borrow one for a trial experience.

As for ease of performance, it varies depending on individual circumstances. Walking can be easily done virtually anywhere, including indoors at home or within a mall.

Cycling may be highly convenient if it replaces your daily commute, but less so if requiring transportation to a biking location via car or public transit.

Evaluate which option seamlessly integrates into your current routine.

Additionally, consider whether you have friends who engage in walking or cycling. Exercising with companions can enhance motivation and adherence to the activity.

In summary, base your decision on personal preference, ease of incorporation into your lifestyle, and the availability of companions to walk or cycle with, which may boost motivation for physical activity.

In conclusion:

Cycling and walking stand out as superb exercise options, catering to individuals across all fitness levels, from novices to seasoned enthusiasts.

Both activities effectively burn calories and serve as viable alternatives if you’re managing a medical condition or recuperating from exercise-related injuries.

Opting for cycling might be advantageous if time is limited and you aim to maximize calorie burn or enhance strength.

Conversely, walking could be more advantageous if you seek the benefits of weight-bearing exercise without investing in cycling equipment.

The reassuring aspect is that embracing either form of exercise yields significant health benefits—either way, you emerge victorious.


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