Everyone can benefit from regular cardiovascular exercise.
Also known as aerobic exercise, these movements can keep the heart healthy, regulate blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you’re interested in taking on more cardio, you might be wondering what activity you should do.
Walking and cycling are the most common forms of cardiovascular exercise. They can be performed by beginners and more advanced individuals.
Some aerobic exercises, like using a jump rope and running are higher impact exercises, so they may not be suitable for people with injuries or exercise newbies.
Cycling movements can also be modified for those with health issues or injuries, and walking can be performed by everybody.
They can be performed outdoors or inside, so everyone can participate.
These two activities may have a lot of advantages, but which one is better than the other?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think, as it depends on your fitness goals and current needs.
Some people may prioritize muscle growth, while others care more about burning calories.
We’ll cover whether walking or cycling is better for you in this article. By reading on, you’ll be able to decide which activity you should do for better health.
Does Walking Or Cycling Burn More Calories?
When walking at an average speed of 3 miles per hour, the average person burns 232 calories per hour.
When cycling at a moderate pace of 12 miles per hour, the average person burns 563 calories per hour.
Keep in mind that these are average figures. Your calorie burn may differ with each exercise.
Naturally, those who walk or bike faster will burn more calories than others at a steadier pace.
Despite this, when comparing the two activities, we know that cycling burns more calories than walking.
Those that want to burn more calories should opt for cycling instead of walking.
It’s also ideal for those who have a packed schedule and don’t have lots of time to exercise.
Which Activity Works Muscles Harder?
Walking and cycling use a lot of the same muscles. Both activities use the hamstrings and hip flexors to move and create power.
You can work these muscles harder by cycling faster. Standing up when pedaling also activates more muscles in the legs.
The quad muscles are needed more when cycling, not walking.
They produce force as you push down the pedals, especially when you’re sitting on the seat.
This may not be achievable when walking on a flat surface, but you can activate your glutes and quads by walking upstairs or uphill.
The muscles in the calves are also important in both exercises. When you cycle, the calf muscles move you forward as you push the pedals.
They’re also needed during walking, as your calves help push your legs forward as you push off from the ground.
It’s clear that cycling and walking use a lot of the same muscles, but in most cases, cycling works the muscles harder.
Does Walking Or Cycling Burn More Fat?
Cycling and walking both use energy, but this comes from different sources.
One activity uses more fat for energy, while the other uses more glycogen.
A 2015 study looked at participants that performed both movements at the same exertion rate.
It found that walking increased fat metabolism more than cycling did.
Additionally, this 2018 study found that compared to cycling, weight-bearing activities were linked to lower amounts of fat that grows within bone marrow.
Weight-bearing exercises require the body to work against gravity, such as running and walking.
If you want to lose fat, you’ll need to be in an energy deficit, so you’ll have to adjust your diet as well as your activity.
That being said, when done at the same intensity, walking uses more fat than cycling.
Which Activity Is Better For Losing Weight?
As touched on above, losing weight involves increasing your calorie burn.
This involves limiting the number of calories you eat while increasing your activity level.
We also covered that in the same amount of time, cycling burns more calories than walking.
This means that if you want to lose more weight, cycling will be the better option.
However, when it comes to weight loss, the most important thing is to stick to an exercise that you enjoy.
Cycling may burn more calories, but If you don’t like cycling, you’re less likely to stick to it.
If you prefer walking, getting regular walks will be a better option.
You can also experiment with adding both activities into your life and monitor the results.
Which One Should I Choose If I Have Injuries?
Injuries can happen to everyone, but when they do, they can impact your ability to exercise.
If you have an injury, it’s important to find an exercise that you can do safely so you can keep active. This will depend on the actual injury.
This 2019 study found that people with lower back issues found that walking reduced the amount of pain they felt.
However, if you feel pain during weight-bearing exercises, like walking, cycling may be a better choice.
The main takeaway here is that all injuries differ from each other. Depending on your condition, walking or cycling may be better than the other.
Always choose the activity that feels the best. If you experience pain during cycling, try walking, and vice versa.
If you’re unsure about what to choose, contact a medical professional for guidance.
They can look at your injury and advise you what exercises are suitable for you.
People Who Should Avoid Walking Or Cycling
Walking is a good activity for most people, particularly those who experience back pain, have bone density issues, or who can’t afford a bicycle and gear.
Despite this, walking may aggravate certain painful areas. If you experience pain when upright or during weight-bearing activities, cycling may offer you relief.
Cycling is great for those who don’t have enough time to exercise, as well as those who like to work out at a greater speed.
At an average pace, cycling also burns more energy compared to walking, and it works out your lower body muscles well.
However, those with back pain or those who cannot sit for long periods may experience discomfort when cycling.
In this case, they should avoid cycling and may want to try walking instead.
The Bottom Line
Walking and cycling are both good ways of staying active. If you’re unsure about which one to go for, try both and see which one you prefer.
Keep a note of which exercise is more comfortable to do, as well as if you enjoy one more than the other.
If you don’t have a bicycle, look for ones for rent or ask your friends and family if you can borrow theirs.
You should also consider which one is easier to add to your lifestyle. This varies with everyone.
Most people can walk outside, but you can also walk inside your house if necessary.
Cycling may be better for people who can cycle to work, but not if you need to take your bike on public transport.
Fortunately, whichever exercise you choose will be better for your well-being.
The most important thing is making sure you can stick to it for the long term.