Walking vs. Biking: Which Is Best For Weight Loss, Cardio, & Overall Health?
Table of Contents
- Walking vs. Biking: General Benefits and Limitations
- Walking vs. Biking: Muscles Worked
- Walking vs. Biking: Heart Health and Cardiovascular Endurance
- Walking vs. Biking: Calories Burned and Weight Loss
- Walking vs. Biking: Strength and Hypertrophy
- So, What Is Better Exercise, Walking Or Biking?
- Wrapping Up
Walking vs. biking — which is best for weight loss, cardio, and overall health? If you’re planning to add cardio to your exercise regime, we discuss both options and the benefits and limitations of both.
Whether you’re new to exercise or further into your fitness journey, walking and biking tick many boxes for overall health and well-being. But if you’re unsure which aerobic exercise to choose, we discuss the differences between them (spoiler alert, you’ll need equipment for one of them), the muscles worked, and the pros and cons of each.
Walking vs. Biking: General Benefits and Limitations
Walking and biking are suitable for everyone, regardless of age and ability, and both are low-impact and easier on the joints than higher-impact activities like running. They also build strength and muscle and improve aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health.
If you’re wondering which is superior, though, it’s (fairly) subjective. If you enjoy walking and don’t own a bicycle, you’ll likely participate in walking more, whereas someone who enjoys cycling and has access to a bike may bike more often.
But in the debate — walking vs. biking — cycling will provide a more vigorous workout. If your goal is weight loss, biking will also burn more calories and build lower body strength when directly compared to walking.
So, is biking better than walking? Not necessarily. Walking is more accessible for most people, but it comes down to intensity and duration, which you can tailor to suit your needs.
Walking vs. Biking: Muscles Worked
Both engage similar muscle groups, but there are differences.
Muscles worked during both walking and biking: quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, core muscles, erector spinae
Walking uphill engages the posterior chain muscles (located down the back of your body), including the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. You can engage more of your upper body by holding light weights or going for a power walk and utilizing your arms.
Spin class lovers — you may spend time standing up or even using light dumbbells; in which case, you’ll also engage your upper body, including the pectorals, deltoids (shoulders), triceps, and trapezius.
Best in category: Both. It depends on how you modify each exercise, but biking will provide a higher-intensity workout for the lower body due to the resistance met by muscle groups.
Walking vs. Biking: Heart Health and Cardiovascular Endurance
Walking can reduce the risk of developing heart conditions. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that walking for 30 minutes per day can lower your blood glucose and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.  Lower blood pressure and cholesterol and a healthier heart and lungs are also potential benefits, improving overall cardiovascular endurance.
To increase intensity when walking, try to include moderate and vigorous activity in your regime, like brisk walks, walking while wearing a weighted vest, or holding light dumbbells.
The benefits of using an exercise bike are vast, and research has found it can enhance aerobic capacity when used several times a week, by increasing V02 max (how much oxygen your body can absorb and use during exercise).  The higher your V02 max, the more oxygen you can consume and the more energy you can utilize. Plus, cycling is an aerobic activity that strengthens the heart, lungs, and circulatory system by increasing your heart and respiration rate.
Best in category: Cycling could be scaled as more vigorous, meaning more cardiovascular benefits.
Walking vs. Biking: Calories Burned and Weight Loss
So, does biking or walking burn more calories? Is biking or walking better?
When it comes to weight loss, it greatly depends on genetics, stress, sleep quality, diet, and exercise. Some evidence also suggests women with higher cortisol levels store more abdominal fat (sorry, ladies). Other areas include sex, weight, age, and height.
Pounding the pedals helps build lean muscle mass, boosts your metabolism, and contributes to overall calorie burn.
High-intensity cycling (like spin) activates EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which means your body consumes more oxygen post-workout to regain homeostasis, elevating metabolism. Your body also works harder against more resistance during uphill bike rides or spin classes, burning more calories than riding on a flat surface.
Walking is more accessible, and studies show a brisk walk helps burn visceral fat — harmful fat that sits around the organs.  But how many minutes of exercise per week do you need? According to the World Health Organization, 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and walking (accumulatively) throughout the week could help you hit that goal easier. 
Your body burns fewer calories at a lighter weight, so as you lose weight and get stronger, you may have to increase the intensity of your workout. You could use a brisker pace, perform intervals, add distance, walk with light dumbbells, or use an incline. Listening to music and wearing a fitness tracker could also bring awareness to calorie burn and help you stay motivated.
Best in category: Cycling. Using a calorie calculator as a guide, you can expect to burn 153 calories as a 54kg female walking 2 miles at 1% incline. Cycling for 2 miles with the same metrics would burn over 200, and take less time.
Walking vs. Biking: Strength and Hypertrophy
Strength training increases the power output of muscles and builds strength, whereas hypertrophy increases muscle fiber size, so you’ll train differently for both.
Walking vs. cycling are both low impact and gentle on the joints — perfect during injury and rehabilitation to rebuild strength and muscle.
Cycling can increase muscle strength without applying tons of pressure, and regularly moving muscles through varying degrees of resistance can build up large muscle groups and smaller stabilizing ones.
Walking is a natural weight-bearing exercise that improves bone strength by limiting the progressive loss of bone mass.  It also improves overall mobility and joint health and helps strengthen muscles around the joints, but your muscles meet less resistance than with cycling.
Best in category: Cycling, although anyone with an injury should build up from walking first.
So, What Is Better Exercise, Walking Or Biking?
|Engaging more muscles
So, is walking or biking better?
- Both can strengthen your heart and lungs, bones, muscles and joints and improve overall fitness and aerobic capacity.
- Cycling is more effective at building stronger, bigger muscles.
- Cycling offers higher calorie burn due to the more demanding nature of the activity.
- Consider adding intensity, duration, distance, light weights and inclines to both activities to increase the benefits.
- Walking is the lowest impact — helpful for beginners or anyone suffering from injury or joint pain vs cycling.
- You can scale both to any ability, but walking is more accessible to most people and encourages better adherence.
And if you fancy upping your walking game, find out if walking 10 miles a day is necessary and why walking 2 miles a day has surprising benefits for your health.