Cycling vs. Walking: benefits, disadvantages, similarities and differences

Cycling and walking offer distinct benefits and drawbacks as low-impact, cardiovascular exercises that engage different muscle groups. Cycling as a lower body workout is non-weight-bearing and gentle on the joints, making it ideal for people with joint pain or arthritis. Walking, on the other hand, is a weight-bearing activity that strengthens bones and joints, and it’s easily accessible and cost-effective, requiring no special equipment.

In a study by Professor David R. Bassett from the University of Tennessee, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, it was found that European countries with higher levels of active transportation, like walking and biking, typically had lower obesity rates than the United States, Australia and Canada.

Biking efficiently works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves while providing a cardiovascular workout that benefits heart health and blood pressure. However, it doesn’t engage the upper body significantly, nor does it provide the bone-strengthening benefits of weight-bearing exercises like walking. While walking provides a full-body workout and is excellent for cardiovascular health, it typically burns fewer calories than cycling at a comparable intensity. Both biking and walking activities can improve muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness, but cycling often allows for a more intense workout, potentially leading to greater aerobic conditioning and calorie expenditure. 

Then what is better for you cycling or walking? The choice between cycling and walking should be based on personal fitness goals, physical condition, and preferences, with considerations for joint health, cardiovascular benefits, and overall impact on muscle and bone strength.

In this article, we will analyze the benefits and disadvantages of biking and walking, then compare them from calories burned from each activity, muscles used and worked from cycling and biking, bones and joints, cardio efficiency, heart rate, blood pressure, power output and cost of each before starting a workout, and how to choose cycling and walking to achieve specific healthy goals.

Table of Contents

Benefits of cycling vs walking

The benefits of cycling versus walking include distinct physical, psychological, and environmental advantages from a medical standpoint. The common benefits of cycling and walking are improved cardiovascular health, enhanced mood due to the release of endorphins, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

Associate Professor of Kinesiology Dr. Melissa Bopp from Pennsylvania State University, USA, mentioned in her research that walking and biking to work, or active commuting (AC), offers numerous health benefits including reduced risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality.

Biking and walking offer special benefits because cycling can cover greater distances, which can reduce reliance on motor vehicles, thus contributing positively to environmental health by reducing carbon emissions. Walking, on the other hand, offers a more meditative, accessible form of exercise that can be easily incorporated into daily life, promoting physical activity without the need for any special equipment or skills. Both activities are beneficial for mental health, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improving overall well-being.

Common benefits of biking and walking

The common benefits of biking and walking are longevity, reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, improved mental health, and reduced traffic and pollution. Below are the details of each benefit in a list.

  1. Live Longer: People who engage in walking and cycling regularly have improved metabolic health, leading to a lower risk of premature mortality.
  2. Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke: These activities significantly reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases and strokes due to their positive impact on overall heart health and circulation.
  3. Reduced Risk of Cancer: Regular walking and cycling are linked to a decreased risk of certain cancers, attributed to improved body weight management and enhanced immune system function.
  4. Lower Risk of Diabetes: Both biking and walking help in maintaining a healthy weight and improving insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing the risk of Type II diabetes.
  5. Increase Mental Health: These forms of exercise have positive effects on mental health and general well-being, including reducing the risk of dementia, improving sleep quality, and boosting the overall sense of well-being.
  6. Reduce Traffic and Pollution: By opting for biking and walking over car use, individuals contribute to reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, benefiting the environment and public health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes walking and cycling as crucial in its Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030, highlighting them as key strategies for contributing to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and improving public health and quality of life as per the Toronto Charter for Physical Activity.

Special cycling benefits compared to walking

Special cycling benefits compared to walking include higher calorie burn, improved joint mobility with less impact, enhanced lower body muscle development, greater cardiovascular fitness due to higher-intensity workouts, and the ability to cover longer distances more efficiently.

  1. Higher Calorie Burn: Cycling typically burns more calories than walking due to the higher intensity of the exercise, making it more effective for weight management and fitness.
  2. Improved Joint Mobility with Less Impact: While cycling, the joints in the legs go through a wide range of motion, improving mobility without the high-impact stress that walking can impose on the ankles, knees, and hips.
  3. Enhanced Lower Body Muscle Development: Cycling intensely works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles, leading to stronger and more toned lower body muscles compared to walking.
  4. Greater Cardiovascular Fitness: The ability to sustain higher-intensity workouts while cycling contributes to improved cardiovascular health and endurance, more so than the moderate intensity of walking.
  5. Efficiency in Covering Longer Distances: Cycling allows individuals to travel longer distances in a shorter time compared to walking, making it more efficient for commuting and exploring.

Special walking benefits compared to cycling

Special walking benefits compared to cycling include better bone health due to its weight-bearing nature, lower risk of injury thanks to its lower intensity, and ease of integration into daily life for improved consistency.

  1. Better Bone Health: Walking, being a weight-bearing exercise, exerts force on the bones, which helps in maintaining or increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a benefit not provided by the low-impact nature of cycling.
  2. Lower Risk of Injury: Due to its lower intensity and the absence of high-speed movement, walking has a significantly lower risk of injury compared to cycling, making it a safer option for all age groups, especially seniors or those with balance issues.
  3. Ease of Integration into Daily Life: Walking can be easily incorporated into daily routines, like walking to the store or taking stairs, without the need for special equipment or preparation, thus promoting more consistent physical activity in everyday life.

Common benefits of cycling and walking

Cycling vs walking for Health Benefits

Cycling vs walking for health benefits offers distinct advantages: cycling excels in building endurance, stamina, and heart health, and is particularly beneficial for knee pain and patients with coronary artery disease, while walking is advantageous for those with back pain and diabetes management. 

EnduranceCycling enhances endurance by engaging multiple muscle groups over extended periods, improving cardiovascular and muscular endurance.Walking improves endurance at a moderate level, suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
StaminaCycling boosts stamina through sustained physical exertion, demanding more energy and cardiovascular capacity.Walking increases stamina, though less intensely than cycling, and is effective for gradual stamina building.
Heart HealthCycling promotes heart health by offering a cardiovascular workout, improving heart function and circulation.Walking supports heart health by providing a moderate cardiovascular workout, suitable for all ages.
Patients with Coronary Artery DiseaseFor patients with coronary artery disease, cycling at a moderate intensity can improve heart health without excessive strain.Walking is highly beneficial for patients with coronary artery disease as it provides gentle, low-impact cardiovascular exercise.
DiabetesCycling helps in diabetes management by improving insulin sensitivity and aiding in weight control.Walking aids in diabetes management through regular, moderate-intensity physical activity that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Back PainCycling is less beneficial for back pain as it can sometimes exacerbate symptoms due to the bent-over position.Walking is beneficial for back pain as it is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the back muscles.
Knee PainCycling is beneficial for knee pain as it is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the muscles around the knee without excessive strain.Walking, being a weight-bearing activity, might exacerbate knee pain in individuals with pre-existing knee conditions.

Cycling vs walking for Health Benefits

Disadvantages of cycling vs walking

Disadvantages of cycling versus walking include increased risk of injuries due to falls or collisions in cycling, potential strain on the back and wrists, and the necessity for specialized equipment and maintenance. Common disadvantages of both cycling and walking are exposure to outdoor elements and traffic hazards, especially in urban areas. From a medical standpoint, while cycling provides a robust cardiovascular workout, it might not offer the bone-strengthening benefits of walking, a weight-bearing exercise. Walking, though safer and more accessible, might not be as effective as cycling in building lower body strength and overall endurance. Additionally, both activities can be limited by weather conditions and environmental factors, potentially impacting consistency in exercise routines.

In a study by Program Director Dr. Pei-Sung Lin from the University of South Florida, it was found that distracted walking and biking, particularly among young people, significantly increase the risk of injuries, with mobile device use being a major cause of distraction.

Common disadvantages of cycling and walking

The common disadvantages of cycling and walking are exposure to weather elements, risk of injury, limited by terrain or infrastructure, the potential for lower intensity workouts, and the need for safety precautions.

  1. Exposure to Weather Elements: Both cycling and walking are outdoor activities, making them subject to weather conditions such as rain, extreme heat, or cold, which can be uncomfortable or even hazardous.
  2. Risk of Injury: While walking is generally low risk, it can still lead to overuse injuries like shin splints; cycling, with higher speeds, poses risks of falls and collisions, especially in traffic.
  3. Limited by Terrain or Infrastructure: The feasibility of both activities can be limited by the availability of safe and suitable terrain or infrastructure, such as sidewalks, trails, or bike lanes.
  4. Potential for Lower Intensity Workouts: Walking, in particular, might not always provide a high-intensity workout, which can be a limitation for those seeking more vigorous exercise; cycling’s intensity can vary greatly based on terrain and effort.
  5. Need for Safety Precautions: Both activities require awareness and precautions to ensure safety, such as wearing helmets while cycling and reflective clothing for visibility during both cycling and walking, especially in low light conditions.

Special cycling disadvantages compared to walking

Special cycling disadvantages compared to walking include a higher risk of traffic-related accidents, need for specialized equipment, the potential for overuse injuries, greater cost for maintenance and equipment, and limited accessibility in certain areas.

  1. Higher Risk of Traffic-Related Accidents: Cycling, especially on roads shared with motor vehicles, carries a higher risk of accidents due to increased speed and potential conflicts with cars, requiring greater vigilance and safety measures.
  2. Need for Specialized Equipment: Cycling requires specific gear such as a bike, helmet, and potentially cycling clothing, which can be a barrier for some individuals due to the initial investment and ongoing maintenance.
  3. Potential for Overuse Injuries: Regular cycling can lead to overuse injuries such as knee pain or wrist strain, especially if the bike is not properly fitted to the rider or if the rider maintains poor posture.
  4. Greater Cost for Maintenance and Equipment: Owning and maintaining a bicycle can be costly, including expenses for repairs, replacements, and upgrades, unlike walking, which requires minimal equipment.
  5. Limited Accessibility in Certain Areas: Cycling can be limited by the availability of safe cycling paths, bike lanes, or road conditions, making it less accessible in areas without proper infrastructure for cyclists.

Special walking disadvantages compared to cycling

Special walking disadvantages compared to cycling include slower speed for covering distances, less efficient calorie burn, and limited intensity for cardiovascular training.

  1. Slower Speed for Covering Distances: Walking is significantly slower than cycling, making it less efficient for covering longer distances or for use as a means of transportation over extended areas.
  2. Less Efficient Calorie Burn: Walking burns fewer calories than cycling over the same period, making it less effective for those looking to maximize their calorie expenditure in a shorter time frame.
  3. Limited Intensity for Cardiovascular Training: While walking provides moderate cardiovascular benefits, it lacks the higher intensity workout that cycling can offer, which is crucial for more rigorous cardiovascular conditioning.

Common disadvantages of cycling and walking

Cycling vs walking injuries

Cycling and walking injuries are caused differently because of the varying physical demands and environments of these activities; cycling often results in road rash, head injuries, knee pain, wrist or forearm injuries, and lower back pain due to factors like falls, repetitive stress, and riding posture. In contrast, walking primarily leads to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, blisters, ankle sprains, and lower back discomfort, mostly due to repetitive impact on hard surfaces, improper footwear, and prolonged activity.

Cycling vs walking

Cycling vs walking, from sports, medical, and recreational perspectives, both represent low-impact, cardiovascular exercises beneficial for overall health, but they differ in intensity, equipment needs, and specific health benefits. From a sports viewpoint, cycling is often more intense, suitable for building endurance and lower body strength, and requires specific equipment like a bicycle and safety gear. Walking, however, is more accessible, requiring minimal equipment, and is ideal for people of all fitness levels. 

Medically, cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise that minimizes stress on the joints, making it suitable for individuals with joint issues, whereas walking, being weight-bearing, is beneficial for bone health and can be more easily integrated into daily life for consistent physical activity. 

Recreationally, both activities offer opportunities for enjoyment and exploration of the environment, but cycling allows for covering longer distances and exploring varied terrains, while walking offers a more leisurely pace, suitable for socializing and urban exploration. Thus, while cycling and walking share common health benefits, their suitability varies based on individual goals, physical conditions, and recreational preferences.

Cycling vs walking calories

Cycling vs walking calories burned depends on intensity, duration, and individual factors like body weight and fitness level. Generally, cycling burns more calories due to its higher intensity, engaging more muscle groups and elevating heart rate more than walking. However, the actual calorie burn for both activities varies with the individual’s weight and fitness, as well as the pace and duration of the exercise.

For example, vigorous cycling can burn significantly more calories than leisurely walking, but brisk walking can come close to or surpass the calories burned in a relaxed bike ride. Therefore, while cycling generally burns more calories, the specific calorie expenditure in each activity is individualized based on the mentioned factors.

Below are the 30-min calories burned in general cycling and walking under different body weights in both pounds and kilograms, based on the Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks(METs) method: Calories Burned per minute =MET value × body weight in Kg × 3.5/200. 

Body Weight (lb/kg)Calories Burned in 30 min (Cycling)Calories Burned in 30 min (Walking)
150 lb (68.04 kg)267.9125.0
175 lb (79.38 kg)312.6145.9
200 lb (90.72 kg)357.2166.7
225 lb (102.06 kg)401.9187.5

For a person weighing 150 lb (68.04 kg), cycling for 30 minutes burns approximately 267.9 calories, while walking for the same duration burns about 125.0 calories.

Cycling vs walking calories

What burns more calories walking or biking?

Biking burns more calories than walking because it is a higher-intensity exercise that engages multiple muscle groups more vigorously, leading to greater energy expenditure proportional to body weight and fitness level, as evidenced in both sports physiology and medical studies.

What lose more weight cycling or walking?

Cycling loses more weight than walking because it typically creates a larger calorie deficit; since one pound of weight loss requires burning about 3500 calories, the higher calorie expenditure of cycling can more effectively contribute to this deficit over one week.

Professor Gary R. Hunter, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a study mentioned that both biking and walking for weight loss, combined with either aerobic or resistance training, resulted in easier locomotion and maintained lower heart rates during exercise, suggesting that moderately intense exercise improves movement ease and encourages participation in physical activity.

Weight LossCycling can lead to significant weight loss due to higher calorie expenditure, especially in high-intensity sessions.Walking contributes to weight loss through consistent, moderate calorie burn, suitable for all fitness levels.
Fat LossCycling, especially at higher intensities, effectively burns body fat, including visceral fat, due to sustained aerobic exercise.Walking aids in fat loss, particularly when combined with a healthy diet, though it may be slower than cycling.
Belly FatCycling can help reduce belly fat by improving overall body composition and accelerating fat metabolism during longer, more intense rides.Walking helps reduce belly fat over time by promoting a steady, moderate level of fat burning, especially beneficial for those new to exercise.
Treadmill vs bike for weight loss

A treadmill for weight loss is better than a bike because it generally allows for a higher intensity workout due to weight-bearing activities, leading to greater calorie expenditure and engaging more muscle groups, which is crucial for effective weight loss. In general running on the treadmill is more efficient for weight loss than biking, while walking on the treadmill is less effective than biking.

How many calories do you burn walking 10000 steps?

You can burn approximately 428.75 calories walking 10,000 steps, assuming an average weight of 70 kg(154 lbs) and a moderate pace of 2.8 to 3.2 mph with a MET value of 3.5. This calculation is based on the equivalence of 10,000 steps to about 5 miles, considering an average adult’s stride length of 2.1 to 2.5 feet, and factors in the total walking duration. 10,000 steps would take about 1.56 to 1.79 hours, or roughly 94 to 107 minutes at this moderate walking pace.

1-hour cycling vs 1-hour walking calories burned

1-hour cycling and 1-hour walking burned calories are listed in the below table, based on METs method for general cycling and walking intensity. 

Body Weight (lb/kg)Calories Burned in 1 Hour (Cycling)Calories Burned in 1 Hour (Walking)
150 lb (68.04 kg)535.8250.0
175 lb (79.38 kg)625.2291.8
200 lb (90.72 kg)714.4333.4
225 lb (102.06 kg)803.8375.0

1-hour cycling vs 1-hour walking calories burned

Cycling muscles vs walking muscles

Cycling muscles and walking muscles are both engaged in lower body exercises, targeting similar muscle groups. Both biking and walking work the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes, providing a comprehensive lower body workout. However, cycling primarily emphasizes the quadriceps and glutes due to the pedaling motion, which requires forceful leg extensions and hip rotations, leading to greater muscle engagement in these areas. Additionally, cycling engages the hip flexors and core muscles more intensely to maintain balance and posture on the bike. 

In contrast, walking involves a more natural gait cycle, placing greater emphasis on the hamstrings and calf muscles, and also engages the core for stability but to a lesser extent compared to cycling. Walking’s weight-bearing nature also means it has a more significant impact on bone density and joint health. Therefore, while both activities work similar muscle groups, the extent and intensity of muscle engagement differ, with cycling focusing more on the front of the thighs and buttocks, and walking providing a more balanced lower body workout with additional benefits to bone health.

Muscles used in cycling

  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps are heavily engaged in cycling, as they are the primary muscles used in the extension of the knee to push the pedals down, which is a fundamental movement in cycling.
  • Hamstrings: Located at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings work in conjunction with the quadriceps to facilitate the pedaling motion, particularly during the upstroke phase of cycling.
  • Gluteus Maximus: As one of the strongest muscles in the body, the gluteus maximus is crucial in cycling for its role in driving the downward phase of the pedal stroke, providing power and stability.
  • Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus): The calf muscles, especially the gastrocnemius and soleus, play a key role in the pushing and pulling phases of the pedal stroke, helping to flex the foot at the ankle.
  • Hip Flexors: The hip flexors are important in cycling for lifting the leg during the upward phase of the pedal stroke, aiding in the continuous circular motion of pedaling.
  • Core Muscles (Abdominals and Back): Core muscles, including the abdominals and the muscles of the lower back, are essential for maintaining balance, posture, and stability on the bike, especially during longer rides or when standing up on the pedals.
  • Arm and Shoulder Muscles: While less emphasized than the lower body, arm and shoulder muscles, including the biceps, triceps, and deltoids, help in maintaining handlebar grip and stability, particularly when cycling on uneven terrain or during sprints.
  • Tibialis Anterior: Located at the front of the lower leg, the tibialis anterior helps in the upward flexion of the foot, playing a supporting role in the pedaling motion.

Muscles used in walking

  • Hamstrings: In walking, the hamstrings are crucial for bending the knee and pulling the leg backward, playing a key role in the stride’s propulsion phase.
  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps are used to extend the knee and stabilize the leg with each step, making them essential for the forward motion in walking.
  • Gluteus Maximus: This muscle is engaged in walking for extending and stabilizing the hip, especially during the stance phase where one foot is on the ground supporting the body.
  • Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus): The calf muscles are vital in walking for pushing off the ground with each step, aiding in the forward movement and providing stability.
  • Tibialis Anterior: This muscle on the front of the shin is engaged in dorsiflexion, lifting the toes to clear the ground during the swing phase of the walking gait.
  • Hip Flexors: The hip flexors are important for lifting the leg and driving it forward during each step, ensuring a smooth walking motion.
  • Core Muscles (Abdominals and Back): The core muscles, including the abdominals and back, are essential for maintaining posture and balance during walking, helping to stabilize the torso.
  • Arm and Shoulder Muscles: Arm and shoulder muscles, particularly the deltoids, biceps, and triceps, are involved in the natural arm swing while walking, contributing to balance and propulsion.
  • Foot Muscles: The intrinsic muscles of the feet play a crucial role in walking, helping to maintain balance, absorb impact, and support the arches of the feet with each step.
HamstringsEngaged during the upstroke phase for pedaling motion.Crucial for bending the knee and pulling the leg backward in stride propulsion.
QuadricepsHeavily engaged in knee extension to push pedals down.Used to extend the knee and stabilize the leg with each step.
Gluteus MaximusDrives the downward phase of the pedal stroke, providing power.Engaged in extending and stabilizing the hip during the stance phase.
Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)Flex the foot at the ankle during the pushing and pulling phases of pedaling.Push off the ground with each step, aiding in forward movement and stability.
Hip FlexorsLift the leg during the upward phase of the pedal stroke.Important for lifting the leg and driving it forward with each step.
Core Muscles (Abdominals and Back)Essential for maintaining balance, posture, and stability on the bike.Essential for maintaining posture and balance, stabilizing the torso.
Arm and Shoulder MusclesHelp in maintaining handlebar grip and stability, especially on uneven terrain or during sprints.Involved in the natural arm swing, contributing to balance and propulsion.
Tibialis AnteriorAssists in upward flexion of the foot during pedaling.Engaged in dorsiflexion, lifting the toes to clear the ground during walking.
Foot Muscles (Walking only) Intrinsic muscles of the feet maintain balance, absorb impact, and support the arches with each step.
Arm Muscles (Cycling only)Less emphasized than the lower body, but helps in maintaining handlebar grip and stability. 

Cycling muscles vs walking muscles

In a study by Postdoctoral Researcher Filipe O. Barroso from the Bioengineering Group, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) Spain, it was found that cycling and walking share common neuromuscular mechanisms, as muscle synergies from walking can reconstruct electromyographic patterns of cycling, suggesting a modular organization of the motor system in executing these tasks.

Cycling vs walking bones and joint impact

Cycling vs walking bones and joint impact varies significantly due to their distinct physical demands; cycling is a low-impact exercise that exerts minimal stress on bones and joints, making it ideal for individuals with joint pain or arthritis, as the cycling motion is smooth and repetitive with less direct force on the knees, hips, and ankles. In contrast, walking, as a weight-bearing activity, has a greater impact on bones and joints, which can be beneficial for bone density but might exacerbate pain in individuals with pre-existing joint issues. Walking’s natural heel-to-toe motion involves a degree of impact with each step, promoting bone health through osteogenic (bone-forming) stimuli but potentially increasing the risk of joint discomfort over time, especially in the knees and hips.

Researcher Dr. João Paulo de Aguiar Greca from Brunel University London, UK, mentioned in a study that cycling in children results in less joint loading than walking, with lower peak compressive and shear forces on the knees and ankles, suggesting that cycling might be more suitable for achieving metabolic load with less joint stress.

Cycling vs walking cardio

Cycling vs walking cardio exercises both offer significant cardiovascular benefits, but they differ in intensity, muscle engagement, and impact on VO2 max. Cycling, generally a higher-intensity workout, engages a wider range of lower body muscles more vigorously, leading to greater increases in heart rate and VO2 max, which is a measure of cardiovascular endurance. The resistance element in cycling, especially when dealing with inclines or higher speeds, provides a more strenuous cardio workout, effectively strengthening the heart and lungs. 

On the other hand, walking, typically a lower-intensity activity, still offers substantial cardiovascular benefits, particularly when performed for longer durations or at brisk paces. Walking is more accessible and easier to sustain for extended periods, making it suitable for a wide range of fitness levels and conducive to consistent cardiovascular training. While walking may not elevate the heart rate or VO2 max to the same extent as cycling, its weight-bearing nature also contributes positively to cardiovascular health, albeit in a more moderate form.

Former president Pekka Oja of Urho Kaleva Kekkonen Institute for Health Promotion Research, Finland, in a study mentioned that low-intensity walking and cycling improved cardiorespiratory and metabolic fitness, with cycling showing more effectiveness than walking, as evidenced by higher cardiorespiratory strain (60% of VO2max in cycling compared to 50% in walking).

Cycling distance and speed equivalents to walking

To compare cycling distance and speed equivalents to walking based on METs (Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks) values, we consider that moderate-intensity walking (3.0 to 4.5 mph) has a MET value of about 3.5, while moderate cycling (12-13.9 mph) has a MET value of approximately 8.0.

To achieve the same caloric expenditure (and thus MET value equivalence), one would need to cycle less distance than they would need to walk, due to the higher intensity (and thus higher MET value) of cycling. Specifically, cycling is about 2.3 times (8.0 ÷ 3.5) more intense than walking.

Therefore, to match the physical activity of walking 1 mile (which is a fixed distance), you would need to cycle approximately 0.43 miles (1 mile ÷ 2.3). Similarly, if you’re comparing time spent rather than distance, for every minute of moderate-intensity walking, you would need to cycle for approximately 0.43 minutes (or roughly 26 seconds) at a moderate intensity to expend an equivalent amount of energy.

What are comparable speeds of walking vs cycling?

The comparable speeds of walking vs cycling, based on METs values, indicate that moderate-intensity walking at around 3.0-4.5 mph equates to moderate-intensity cycling at about 10-14 mph, while vigorous walking speeds exceeding 4.5 mph are similar in intensity to cycling at speeds over 15 mph.

To compare speeds of walking vs cycling at different intensities based on METs values, we need to align the MET values for each activity. These are approximate values and can vary depending on the individual’s physical condition, terrain, and other external factors. The MET values for cycling rise more steeply with increased speed compared to walking, reflecting the greater intensity and energy expenditure at higher cycling speeds.

IntensityWalking Speed (mph/kph)Cycling Speed (mph/kph)Equivalent
Light Intensity2-2.9 mph / 3.2-4.7 kph5-9 mph / 8-14.5 kphLight walking speed is about half the speed of light cycling.
Moderate Intensity3.0-4.5 mph / 4.8-7.2 kph10-14 mph / 16-22.5 kphModerate walking speed is around one-third to half the speed of moderate cycling.
Vigorous Intensity>4.5 mph / >7.2 kph>15 mph / >24 kphVigorous walking speed is significantly slower than vigorous cycling.

What are comparable speeds of walking vs cycling

What is the average walking speed vs average cycling speed?

The average walking speed is approximately 5 km/h (about 3 mph), while the average cycling speed ranges from 15 to 20 km/h (9 to 12 mph). These speeds are influenced by the METs (Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks) values of each activity, reflecting the energy expenditure and intensity involved. 

From a sports and science perspective, walking, with a MET value around 3.5 for a moderate pace, is a lower-intensity exercise compared to cycling. Cycling, even at a leisurely pace, has a higher MET value due to the additional energy required for pedaling and overcoming wind resistance. The higher average speed in cycling is facilitated by the mechanical advantage of the bicycle, allowing for greater distance coverage with less perceived exertion compared to walking. This difference in speeds also reflects the diverse physiological demands of these activities, with cycling engaging more muscle groups for propulsion and balance, thereby demanding more energy, which translates into faster movement and higher average speeds.

Cycling VO2 max vs walking

Cycling VO2 max, typically higher than that of walking, can range from about 40 to 80 ml/kg/min in trained individuals, reflecting the exercise’s higher intensity and greater demand on the cardiovascular system. In contrast, the VO2 max for walking is generally lower, often ranging from 30 to 50 ml/kg/min, due to its lower intensity and lesser demand on the cardiorespiratory system, especially at moderate speeds. This difference highlights the greater efficiency and endurance capacity often required and developed in cycling compared to walking.

Cycling vs walking heart rate

Cycling heart rate typically reaches higher zones compared to walking, due to the more intense cardiovascular demand of cycling, often pushing the body closer to its aerobic threshold and into higher heart rate zones for improved cardio fitness. In contrast, walking generally maintains the heart rate within a moderate zone, offering steady cardiovascular benefits without the intense stress on the heart, making it suitable for a broader range of fitness levels and ideal for consistent, low-impact cardio training.

Is walking or cycling better for your heart?

Cycling is better for your heart compared to walking because it typically involves higher intensity exercise, leading to greater cardiovascular conditioning and improved heart rate variability, which are key indicators of heart health.

Research Fellow Dr. Carlos A Celis-Morales from the University of Glasgow, UK, found in a 2017 BMJ study that cycling commuting is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and all-cause mortality compared to walking commuting, likely due to higher overall physical activity and fitness levels from the greater exercise intensity of cycling.

Cycling vs walking heart rate zones

Cycling and walking heart rate zones differ primarily due to the intensity levels typically associated with each activity. Cycling can more easily span across a wider range of heart rate zones, from light to maximum, because it can be performed at varying intensities – from leisurely riding (Zone 1) to intense racing or uphill climbs (Zone 5).

ActivityZone 1 (Light)Zone 2 (Moderate)Zone 3 (Hard)Zone 4 (Very Hard)Zone 5 (Maximum)
Cycling50-60% HRmax60-70% HRmax70-80% HRmax80-90% HRmax90-100% HRmax
WalkingLikelyLikelyPossibleUnlikelyVery Unlikely

Cycling vs walking heart rate zones

In contrast, walking typically falls within the lower heart rate zones – mainly Zone 1 and Zone 2. Walking is generally a lower-intensity exercise compared to cycling, so it’s less likely for a person to reach the higher heart rate zones (such as Zones 4 and 5) through walking alone. Brisk or uphill walking can push into Zone 3, but it’s uncommon to go beyond that during typical walking activities.

This difference is due to the physical demands of each exercise; cycling involves more rigorous leg movement and can include resistance (like hills or high gear settings), which can elevate the heart rate significantly. Walking, while it can be a good cardiovascular exercise, typically involves less intense exertion, keeping the heart rate in the lower zones.

Cycling vs walking power

Cycling power, measured in watts, typically exceeds that of walking due to the greater force exertion and speed involved in pedaling, especially when overcoming resistance like hills or headwinds. While walking (still a form of physical exertion), generates less power because it involves lower-intensity, weight-bearing movements, with the body’s weight contributing less to power output than the mechanical advantages offered by a bicycle.

Cycling vs walking cost

Cycling typically costs more than walking due to the necessary equipment, maintenance, and potential time investment. Here’s an expansion of each aspect:

  • Equipment: Cycling requires a bicycle, which can range from affordable to high-end models, along with additional gear like helmets, lights, and proper attire, whereas walking requires minimal equipment, typically just a pair of good shoes.
  • Maintenance: Bicycles need regular maintenance, including tire replacements, brake checks, and possibly more costly repairs, while walking has virtually no maintenance costs, barring the occasional need for new walking shoes.
  • Time Investment: For cycling, there might be additional time invested in maintenance, learning proper cycling techniques, and potentially longer routes, whereas walking is straightforward and can be easily integrated into daily routines without significant time commitments for upkeep or skill development.

Walking vs cycling for busy people, which is better?

Walking is better for busy people than cycling because it can be easily integrated into daily routines, such as walking to work or during lunch breaks, without the need for special equipment or time dedicated to maintenance, making it a more convenient and flexible option.

Cycling vs Walking: How To Choose

When deciding between cycling and walking, consider your fitness goals, joint health, and convenience. Cycling, whether outdoors like road cycling and mountain biking or on a stationary bike, offers a high-intensity, low-impact workout ideal for cardiovascular health and suitable for those with joint concerns. Walking, including brisk outdoor walks or treadmill use, is great for moderate, weight-bearing exercise, promoting bone health and easily fitting into daily routines. Combining both activities can provide a well-rounded fitness regimen, accommodating varied intensities and settings, thus catering to a comprehensive range of health and fitness needs.

Is biking better than walking?

Biking can be better than walking for individuals seeking higher-intensity cardiovascular workouts, those with joint issues, or those aiming for efficient weight loss and muscle toning, because it provides a low-impact yet vigorous exercise that elevates heart rate more effectively and targets lower body muscles more intensively.

Indoor cycling vs walking

Indoor cycling, compared to walking, offers a more controlled and high-intensity workout irrespective of outdoor conditions, making it a convenient choice for those with specific fitness plans or limited access to suitable walking spaces, whereas walking, although adaptable to indoor treadmills, typically provides a more moderate exercise and is subject to varying outdoor environments.

Indoor cycling vs walking on the treadmill 

Indoor cycling typically offers a higher-intensity cardio workout with greater potential for elevating heart rate and improving cardiovascular fitness compared to walking on a treadmill, which generally provides a more moderate cardio exercise with lower intensity.

Exercise bike vs walking machine

An exercise bike typically delivers a more intense cardio workout, elevating heart rate and engaging lower body muscles more vigorously, whereas a walking machine provides a gentler cardio experience, better suited for moderate-intensity exercise and easier joint movement.

Is riding a stationary bike as good as walking?

Yes, riding a stationary bike can be as good as walking, because it offers a comparable cardiovascular workout with greater intensity and lower impact on joints, making it suitable for a range of fitness levels and specific health goals.

Is riding a recumbent bike as good as walking?

Yes, riding a recumbent bike can be as good as walking, because it provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout that is gentle on the back and joints, while still offering effective aerobic exercise and muscle engagement, suitable for people of all fitness levels.

Is a bike or treadmill better?

A bike is better than a treadmill for individuals seeking a low-impact, high-intensity cardiovascular workout because it offers greater variety in resistance and speed, allowing for more intense exercise with less strain on the joints, particularly beneficial for those with knee or back issues.

Peloton bike vs treadmill

A Peloton bike typically provides a more intense and varied cardio workout with options for high-resistance cycling, ideal for rigorous cardiovascular training, while a treadmill offers adjustable intensity suited for both walking and running, accommodating a wider range of cardio exercises from low to high impact.

Stationary bike vs treadmill

A stationary bike generally offers a focused, low-impact cardio workout with variable intensity, ideal for strengthening the lower body and improving cardiovascular health, while a treadmill allows for a range of intensities from walking to running, providing a more versatile whole-body cardiovascular exercise.

Brisk walking vs cycling

Brisk walking, while offering a moderate cardiovascular workout suitable for all fitness levels, typically involves lower intensity and less strain on the heart compared to cycling, which provides a more vigorous cardio exercise with greater potential to elevate heart rate and improve overall aerobic capacity.

Cycling uphill vs walking

Cycling uphill demands more intense cardiovascular and muscular effort compared to walking, as it requires greater exertion to overcome gravity and resistance, leading to a more vigorous workout that significantly elevates heart rate and challenges endurance.

Does biking help with walking?

Yes, biking helps with walking because it strengthens the lower body muscles, improves joint mobility, and enhances cardiovascular fitness, all of which contribute to better walking endurance and efficiency, while also reducing the risk of leg injuries and joint pain.

Does biking help with walking endurance?

Yes, biking helps with walking endurance because it builds stamina, strengthens leg muscles, and improves cardiovascular fitness, leading to increased heart rate endurance and higher lactate threshold, which collectively enhance overall endurance for activities like walking.

Does walking help with cycling?

Yes, walking helps with cycling because it maintains cardiovascular fitness and builds strength in key muscle groups used in cycling, while also providing a low-impact exercise option that reduces pressure on the knees and back, areas often stressed in cycling, which sometimes lead to knee, hip and lower back pain from cycling.

Does walking help with cycling endurance?

Yes, walking helps with cycling endurance because it strengthens the cardiovascular system and leg muscles, particularly the hamstrings and calves, which are crucial for sustained pedaling, thereby enhancing the overall endurance needed for longer cycling sessions.

Is walking or cycling better for the elderly?

Walking is better for the elderly than cycling because it is a lower-impact activity that is easier on the joints, safer in terms of balance and fall risk, and can be more easily incorporated into daily activities, making it more suitable for the varying fitness levels often found in older adults.

Is walking or cycling better for younger people?

Cycling is better for younger people than walking because it offers a higher-intensity workout that aligns well with their typically higher energy levels and fitness capacities, and it provides an engaging and efficient way to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, which are key beneficial aspects of youth fitness.

Is walking or cycling better for pregnancy?

Walking is better for pregnancy than cycling because it is a lower-impact, safer activity that poses less risk of falls and can be easily adjusted to suit the changing fitness levels and balance concerns common during pregnancy, making it more suitable for safely maintaining fitness.