Walking and riding a bike can help you meet your daily moderate activity requirements. Both are doable and accessible activities that even beginners or people with health conditions can perform without issues.
However, the choice between the two boils down to your fitness goals and how you want to achieve them. Let’s identify some factors relevant to these two activities in this article for a better comparison.
Exercise Bike vs Walking
Comparing exercise bikes versus walking is like looking at apples and oranges. One uses a machine, while the other does not. Indoor cycling is pedalling at the same spot. On the other hand, walking involves moving around. They do have shared health benefits, though. For instance, both are good for improving your cardiovascular fitness and boosting your endurance.
Better heart health means extra protection against diseases, especially cardio and circulatory conditions. Both forms of aerobic activity also encourage the release of happy hormones like endorphins. These substances help control our mood swings and stress levels.
As biking and walking are very different exercises, the amount or level of benefits they provide also vary. And this is where our individual health goals come in.
Here’s a table for a quick overview. Keep reading for an in-depth explanation of each factor.
|CALORIC BURN* & WEIGHT LOSS
|Ideal for fast, significant weight loss results
|Ideal for maintaining a healthy body weight
|Lower fat metabolism due to less muscle impact
|Better fat metabolism due to higher muscle impact
|Too low impact to make bone cells work better
|Encourages cells to work harder for denser, stronger bones
|STRENGTH & MUSCLE BUILDING
|Requires more physical effort, resulting in better strength and muscle activation
|Requires less physical effort, resulting in lesser strength and muscle activation
|SAFETY & INJURY RISKS
|Relatively safer but may not suit users with knee pain
|Safe but can be demanding, depending on terrain and pace
|COST & CONVENIENCE
|Inexpensive and convenient for people with less time to exercise
|Virtually free and convenient for people with no space for bulky exercise equipment
If you are curious whether an exercise bike or a treadmill offers a better workout, then this article may interest you – Exercise Bike vs Treadmill.
Calorie Burn and Weight Loss
Workout intensity and duration directly affect the number of calories we burn. Longer and more intense sessions lead to higher caloric expenditure. According to Healthline, with the same exercise time and intensity, cycling/bike riding outperforms walking.
Even if you try walking briskly or uphill, an indoor bike still provides a higher calorie burn. So, if weight loss is your fitness goal, opt for exercise bikes rather than walking. You’ll still be burning calories and losing weight by walking but it may not be the most efficient choice if you want fast and significant results.
If indoor cycling burns more calories than walking, does that mean it burns fat better, too? Not quite. Surprisingly, walking is a better fat burner than riding a stationary bike. That’s because, unlike cycling, walking is a weight-bearing exercise.
It encourages you to work against gravity, targeting your muscles and bones. When you put your muscles to work during exercise, your fat metabolism rate goes up. The after-burn effect increases, too.
Cycling also works the muscles for body fat loss. However, this activity is more concentrated on your lower-body muscles. On the other hand, walking exercises impact the muscles more. Also, it activates even the upper body, like your core muscles.
Between exercise bikes versus walking, walking is better for healthier bones. It has something to do with walking being a weight-bearing activity. Moving your body against gravity stresses the bones, encouraging bone cells to work harder.
In turn, you get extra calcium deposits and strong, denser bones. We all know that less fragile bones are beneficial, especially as we age. One study among older women even showed that walking at least 4 hours a week can lower hip fracture risk by 41%.
So, consider a walking routine to boost your bone health and avoid related diseases like osteoporosis. Also, walk at a moderate pace for better results. Aside from walking, you can also do other weight-bearing exercises like jogging, stair climbing, dancing, hiking, yoga and tai chi.
Resistance or strength training exercises are also excellent alternatives. For sports lovers, you can get stronger bones by playing golf, tennis and squash, too.
Strength and Muscle Building
Riding an exercise bike and walking outdoors target almost the same muscle groups, particularly those in your legs. While the walking motion impacts your muscles more, you exert more physical effort when cycling, especially at high bike resistance or speed. As a result, you get better muscle size and strength by riding an indoor bike.
Researchers call this effect muscular hypertrophy. Still, neither walking nor cycling will give you six-pack abs or bulging muscles. You need weight training for that. You can always wear ankle weights while walking or lift weights while cycling for added muscle strength.
Safety and Injury Risks
Both walking and cycling are safe forms of exercise that you can do, regardless of your fitness level. Since we are comparing exercise bikes versus walking, I’d say using an exercise bike is relatively safer.
You do not have to wear a helmet while on stationary bicycles. You’ll be exercising indoors and in one spot, too, unlike walking, where you’ll likely encounter uneven terrain, traffic and inclement weather.
Then again, there are ways to ensure your safety during your walking sessions. For instance, you can wear reflective clothing at night, bring your mobile phone or walk with a friend. But what if you’re recovering from an injury? Which one is safer? In this case, it depends.
It’s best to consult a doctor first if you plan to do any physical activity. Generally, walking is a more flexible option for people who want to stay active while recovering. If you stay on a levelled surface and walk at a slower pace, there’s little to zero chance of exacerbating your health condition.
On the other hand, stationary biking involves some upper-body leaning and knee bending that may not help those with joint pain. Alternatively, you can use a recumbent bike to make cycling easier on your knees, hips and spine.
Cost and Convenience
The best thing about a walking session is that it costs nearly nothing. All you need are moisture-wicking clothes and a comfortable pair of trainers. Exercise bikes are generally affordable, so cost may not be a big issue. However, you also need to consider its maintenance needs and potential repair or replacement expenses. Depending on the bike model, you’ll likely spend for its power source, too.
When it comes to convenience, it depends on your preference and living set-up. For instance, it’s better to ride the exercise bike for nightly routines than walk around the neighbourhood or go to the gym. Indoor cycling is also doable in any weather condition.
On the other hand, if you’re living in a tiny home and have no space for an exercise bike, then walking outdoors is a more convenient option. You can say hello to the neighbours, get some sunlight and see scenic views on the side, too.
Walking and riding bikes are different physical activities with strengths and weaknesses. So, the best way to settle the walking versus exercise bike comparison is to assess your needs and capabilities.
If you want to burn more calories while staying indoors, find a high-quality exercise bike and start planning your cycling routine. However, if you need stronger bones without spending a lot, then get ready to squeeze a daily walking session into your schedule.
As for me, I’d recommend putting both into your workout program. That way, you get exercise variety plus two sets of fitness benefits!
1. How long should I bike for a good workout?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, 30 minutes of moderate stationary biking can burn 210 to 294 calories, depending on body weight. You also burn more calories when you shift to a vigorous pace. Either of these modes can help you maintain a healthy weight and gain other benefits.
2. How long should I ride a bike to make 10,000 steps?
There are several methods to convert your cycling routine into steps. But generally, cycling for 1 hour at moderate intensity makes 10,000 steps. If you want to stick to this walking habit, consider using a treadmill. You can control the machine settings to walk faster in a shorter period. The best part? You can do it safely at any time indoors!
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