Cycling vs Walking: What's the Difference?

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In terms of exercise, biking works for me! I took up the sport for health reasons — it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. For others, walking is their activity of preference.

You might be wondering — cycling vs walking: What’s the difference?

To answer this question, I’ve put together a comparison between cycling and walking.

Cycling vs Walking:

  • Cycling develops and tones muscles better.
  • Biking burns more calories.
  • Walking doesn’t require special equipment.
  • Two-wheels are better for time-efficiency.
  • Walking is lower intensity.
  • Riding a bike is easier on the joints.
  • Both have a low risk of injury.

Comparison Between Cycling and Walking


cycling vs walking

Let’s weigh up these two types of physical activity:


As I’m sure you realize, biking is my first choice form of exercise. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits.

Muscles Worked

It comes as no surprise — riding two-wheels is predominantly a lower body workout. Pedaling power comes from major upper leg muscles like the quadriceps (thighs) and hamstrings (rear of your thighs) — calves (lower leg) and glutes (butt) are also targeted.

However, your upper body gets in on the action too — biceps and shoulders activate when riding a bicycle. Those, and your core muscles (abs and back), keep you balanced while biking.

What’s more, as you can up the resistance — using bigger gears or pedaling uphill — it also strengthens and tones muscle.

Calories Burned

If you’re interested in cycling for weight loss, it can be a smart choice for burning calories. A study from Harvard suggests that a 125-pound person can burn up to approximately 500 calories in 30 minutes, depending on the intensity.

Cardio Effects

Cycling is amazing for cardio. Physical activity of an aerobic nature elevates heart rate, which boosts cardiovascular health. As you workout, you breathe more deeply, increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients circulating your body.

Sprinting, pedaling uphill, and spin classes are all ways you can elevate the intensity.

Time Spent

Because you can technically “go further” on two wheels than walking, you can do a workout of the same quality in a shorter space of time on a bicycle. So if time is of a premium, hopping on your bike has the edge.

Equipment Needed

The most obvious — you’ll need a bike to reap the benefits of cycling!

If you’re planning on being out on the road, you’ll also need safety equipment such as a helmet as well as clothing, plus bicycle spares and accessories.

Risk of Injury

Cycling is low impact and very easy on the joints. It's a non-weight-bearing activity — your feet don’t even make contact with the ground — your tires do.

The greatest chance of injury is if you happen to have a mishap on your bike. When riding outdoors, traffic-related accidents are a possibility — which is why you can’t afford to skip the protective equipment! 


Now, let’s see how walking fairs in this comparison:

Muscles Worked

Walking is a full-body exercise. It engages muscles from head to toe — the quads and hamstrings, calves, buttocks, and lower abs are the most prominent. The lower leg muscles (front and back) work more when you walk — than when riding a bike — to help the foot flex forward and backward.

Others that play a role in stabilizing are the rest of the abdominal muscles, the arms and shoulders. These work hard during a power walk! How hard depends on your exercise intensity and whether you’re walking on a level surface, uphill, or downhill.

Walking, however, doesn’t tone and strengthen the muscle as much as cycling.

Calories Burned

Walking your way to weight loss is possible. According to the same Harvard study, the 125-pound person expends 195 calories when power walking for 30 minutes. The number of calories can also be increased or decreased depending on pace and bodyweight.

Cardio Effects

Walking is also a great form of exercise for cardio. Your speed makes a difference. A brisk tempo is an optimal intensity, and you could even incorporate interval training into your walk to maximize your heart health.

Taking a walk isn’t going to get your heart rate up quite like riding a bike will, it still makes a difference — providing your pace gets you breathing harder and faster than usual.

Time Spent

Walking is a slower-paced activity. This means you’ll have to spend more time engaged in it to reap the same exercise rewards as cycling.

Equipment Needed

The best thing about walking is that you don’t need any specialized equipment to get started — it's accessible to almost anyone! If you want to walk outside in the street, providing you have a decent pair of shoes — you’re good to go. This means it’s also quite a cost-effective way to keep fit.

Risk of Injury

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which has many benefits of its own. It’s more jarring on the joints and can result in issues like stress fractures, joint problems or twisting an ankle. It also depends on your pace — running tends to have a higher risk of injury than walking.

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Round-Up Comparison Between Cycling and Walking


After my research, here’s a summary of my comparison between cycling and walking:

  • Most beneficial for muscle: Cycling.
  • Burns more calories: Cycling.
  • More effective cardio: Cycling.
  • Best for time-efficiency: Cycling.
  • Most accessible: Walking.
  • Lowest risk of injury: Equal.

Running vs Cycling?


Comparing cycling vs running is similar to the above. Running is a high impact sport and puts more strain on your joints — leading to a higher risk of injury than riding a bike.

You’ll probably lose weight faster running, there’s a bigger calorie burn, and you use more muscles than when on two wheels. Comparing cycling to running in terms of cardio workouts, I’d say they’re on par with each other.

That said, many cyclists cross-train — triathlons are popular within fitness circuits.

Cycling vs Walking FAQs


“What Is The Cycling Equivalent of 10000 Steps?”

I love my fitness tracker!

According to research, adults take up to 18K steps per day. However, the suggested benchmark is set at a daily rate of only 10K. The fitness tracker craze has got everyone clocking their miles, but what’s the biking equivalent?

The distance walked in 10K steps depends on your height and stride length! For the average person, this equates to around 5 miles. If you walk at 3mph, you should burn roughly 230 calories per hour.

Biking at a relaxed pace of 12mph should give you a figure of 563 calories per hour. If we do a bit of calculating using these numbers, we can assume that a 2.5-mile cycle at a moderate pace is the equivalent of walking 10k steps!

“Can Cycling Get Rid of Belly Fat?”

It can! Not necessarily in the way you think, though. While body fat appears to be dropping, belly fat often sticks around. In fact, it's often the last region of body weight to go.

By following a regular fitness regime — like riding a bike or going for a walk every day, your persistence will pay off — this stubborn area will also shift.

“Is Walking as Good as Cycling for Losing Weight?”

There are many variables to take into account — duration of exercise, weight and intensity.

For example, you’ll burn more calories on a 60-minute bike ride than a 60-minute walk. In contrast, if you walked the same distance you cycled — taking a walk would come out tops.

Taking into consideration the time factor, biking would be the faster option.

Comparison Between Cycling and Walking Conclusion


Cycling vs walking? As the research shows, biking comes out tops in most categories! It’s a fantastic way to exercise and really gets your heart rate up.

Riding a bike is also kinder to your joints and offers extra benefits to your muscles. Providing you’re careful on the ride, your chance of injury is low.

Cycling is also plain fun! It has a ton of benefits, so why not find out for yourself and join the biking family today?

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