Biking Vs. Walking — Which Is Better For Your Goals? A Personal Trainer Weighs In

Strength training may seem intimidating to beginners. Even without equipment, you need to learn proper form and may benefit from working with a personal trainer or coach. When it comes to cardio exercise, there’s a lower barrier to entry for many folks. There are two pretty accessible activities you may have been doing since you were a child: biking and walking. 

But which one is the better workout? Both offer health benefits, so it depends on your goal, the amount of time you have, and which one you prefer. Here, I’ll crown a winner in the battle of cycling versus walking in six categories. Let the competition begin.

Biking Vs. Walking 

To hit the pedals or the pavement? Biking and walking are two great forms of cardiovascular exercise. They’ll get your heart rate up, engage your leg muscles, and can help support a variety of workout programs.

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When deciding which exercise is best for you, be specific about what you want. Are you busy and need something quick and efficient? Are you trying to lose weight, increase strength, or build muscle? Maybe you’re recovering from an injury or looking for information on the best natural way to prevent heart disease. I’ll dive into each topic next.

For Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, think about what equipment you can access and how much time you have to do it.

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The amount of calories you burn during exercise is likely not the most important factor, but it is a helpful way to gauge your energy expenditure, so I’ll include it here, too.


Equipment Needed: You’ll need access to an exercise bike at the gym or a regular bike (and a helmet) to take an outdoor bike ride. This can be a barrier, especially if you’re away from the gym, don’t own a bike, and don’t live in a city where you can easily rent one.

Scaling Intensity: Though it’s always best to start slow, even beginners may be able to easily pedal more than 10 miles per hour on a stationary bike, especially on flat terrain.

Time and Calories Burned: The number of calories a person burns depends on each individual’s body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) lists the number of calories a 154-pound person would burn on a 30-minute and one-hour bike ride at different speeds. (1)


Equipment Needed: You can walk on a treadmill or outside; all you need are shoes (which could also be optional).

Time and Calories Burned: Here’s how the CDC breaks down burning calories walking for a 154-pound person. (1)

Scaling Intensity: If you’ve ever cranked up the speed on the treadmill, you know it’s challenging to get your walking speed up to 4.5 without jogging. On a treadmill, you can increase the incline to work harder without walking faster. 

The Winner: In terms of equipment, walking wins since many people can do it anywhere, anytime, for free. However, although the calorie breakdowns are similar, it can’t be a leisurely walk at a moderate pace to match an easy bike ride. Walking at a 3.5 or 4.5 speed on flat terrain is challenging (but possible), while you can burn roughly the same amount of calories on an easier, faster bike ride. 

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Overall, cycling is more efficient (unless you don’t have a bike — then, walking wins the efficiency battle).

For Weight Loss

If your goal is weight loss, you generally need to expend more energy than you take in — though it’s not always a perfect science. In addition to adjusting your nutrition, boosting the number of calories you burn daily through biking or walking may help you lose body fat by increasing your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

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Plenty of research suggests that weight loss may occur when you combine a caloric deficit with cycling or walking.

One study had participants do a 12-week program of three weekly 45-minute indoor cycling workouts while in a calorie deficit. These participants experienced weight loss. (2)

An 18-month study was done on 280 participants in a caloric deficit. Those who walked more than 10,000 steps daily — with 3,500 steps as part of a moderate-to-vigorous intensity walk of at least 10 minutes — lost more than 10 percent of their body weight. (3)


Calories Burned: A brisk walk and a casual bike ride burn around the same amount of calories. How fast you can walk levels off, so you can burn more by riding faster, especially on an exercise bike.

Lower-Impact: Biking and walking are low-impact exercises, but biking is an even lower impact since it is a non-weight-bearing activity. Sometimes, lower-impact exercise like cycling can be more comfortable for higher weight people.

NEAT and TDEE: Another way of boosting your TDEE is by increasing your NEAT — non-exercise activity thermogenesis — which is the energy you burn outside of eating, sleeping, and structured exercise. If you can commute to work on your bike, you can increase your TDEE, which may help weight loss. (4)


Calories Burned: Even though walking at a moderate pace doesn’t burn as many calories as a bike ride, it still burns calories.

Low-Impact: Walking is a low-impact, weight-bearing exercise. This type of exercise may strengthen your muscles and bones while you raise your heart rate during your cardio workout. 

NEAT and TDEE: Walking will contribute more to your NEAT than cycling. Getting up and walking around your house, office, up and down stairs, and to and from your car adds up. You can also intentionally boost your NEAT by taking breaks at work and walking around the room. 

The Winner: If you’re looking at it from a purely calories-burned angle, cycling wins because you can work harder at a lower impact. However, NEAT-wise, walking wins — you’re unlikely to hop on and off your bike all day. 

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Whichever activity you enjoy and can see yourself doing more of will benefit weight loss the most.

For Strength

Both walking and cycling can increase your strength, but I’ll zero in on a few populations to declare which likely works better, and for whom.


Strengthens Lower Body Muscles: Biking, especially with resistance, will work and strengthen your leg muscles. Your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves work together to push and pull on the pedals. You also get some upper body work in outdoor biking by steering and going up hills. In a cycling class, you may also perform upper body exercises with light dumbbells. 

Older Adults: Research suggests that older adults can gain significantly more strength through cycling than younger adults. Younger adults can increase strength by cycling in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. (5)

More Challenge for Strength Athletes: Intense cycling may be more challenging than a brisk walk for strength athletes seeking to add cardio exercise to their routine.


Lower Body Only: Walking will also increase strength, especially if you’re new to exercise. Taking an incline walk on the treadmill or uphill strengthens your leg muscles. Though cycling can incorporate your entire body, walking is lower body only.

Older Adults: As a weight-bearing exercise, walking is an essential strength-building exercise for older adults. Medical professionals advise people at risk of osteoporosis to do weight-bearing cardio exercise, like walking, in addition to resistance training. (5)

Active Recovery for Strength Athletes: Strength athletes can still benefit from a brisk walk for active recovery or a mental break from intense training.

The Winner: Biking can increase strength in your upper and lower body, especially for professional cyclists, people doing HIIT workouts, and older adults. However, it’s a non-weight-bearing exercise and may not impact bone health for older adults at risk of osteoporosis. 

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Walking wins for bone strength, but cycling wins for muscular strength.

For Muscle Growth

Cycling and walking are predominantly aerobic exercises, though you can increase resistance in cycling and repeatedly stress your leg muscles against it. Because of that, some research suggests cycling can induce hypertrophy — but you typically need to do a high volume of it. 


Cyclists May Build Muscle: Professional cyclists often have very visible leg muscles. They likely also engage in resistance training outside of their cycling workouts. But, research suggests that since they do such a high volume of cycling over a long period, cycling itself may build some muscle. (6)

Older Adults and Sedentary People: The same research suggests that older adults and sedentary people may build muscle with cycling. Younger adults might as well, but they need to do a higher volume and level of intensity. (6)

Upper Body Hypertrophy Possible: Some cycling classes incorporate upper body work with light dumbbells. If you do this consistently with the proper nutrition, it may be possible to build some muscle.


Helps Older Adults Retain Muscle: Weight-bearing exercise, like walking, may help older adults avoid natural muscle loss from aging, but the best results come from combining it with resistance training. (7)

Active Recovery for Hypertrophy Training: While walking may not build muscle in trained individuals, it’s a good option for an active recovery day.

The Winner: There is more evidence that cycling can build muscle, specifically in older adults and sedentary people. When you engage in resistance training with muscle growth as a goal, both options are good additions to your training program for cardio exercise or active recovery. 

For Injury Recovery

You’ll often see stationary bikes and treadmills at physical therapy offices. Engaging in safe (medical professional-approved) movement while recovering from an injury can help you regain strength and recover better. Here’s where one may win over the other.


Lower Impact: Exercise bikes are great for lower body injuries. If you have an injury preventing you from bearing your total body weight, a non-weight-bearing exercise like biking can help you retain mobility.

Types of Stationary Bikes: Although cycling can be a full-body activity, you can still hop on a recumbent bike if you have an upper-body injury since you can ride it without your hands.


Upper Body Injury: If you have an upper body injury but don’t have access to a recumbent bike, walking may be the best option since you only need your lower body.

Weight-Bearing Exercise: Walking may be better depending on the type of injury because bearing your body weight may help you regain strength.

The Winner: It is tough to call a winner since many types of injuries exist. If you can’t bear your body weight, cycling may win. If you can, walking may be better.

For Heart Health

Cardiovascular health may not be the most exciting fitness goal to go after, but it certainly matters. Biking and walking are both types of aerobic exercise. Aerobic (or cardio) exercise is any physical activity you perform rhythmically while engaging large muscle groups that you can sustain for some time. It uses oxygen as an energy source and should raise your heart rate and respiration. (8)

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The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following weekly guidelines for adults: (9)

150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise

75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

Or a combination of both

Plus, two days of resistance training

Consistently reaching these weekly goals can improve cardiovascular health by preventing heart disease and managing blood pressure and cholesterol. (9)


Boosts Cardiovascular Health: Any type of exercise you enjoy and do consistently can get you these health benefits. A review of studies on cycling, specifically, suggests that regular cycling is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and mortality. (10)

Can Meet Moderate and Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Exercise Criteria: A cycling workout can qualify as either moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity.

Increases VO2 Max: Biking also improves cardiovascular fitness, a well-known predictor of cardiovascular health. (11)


Accessible Exercise for Heart Health: Regular walking is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. For many people, walking is a relatively accessible form of exercise that may help sedentary people be more likely to do it and get the health benefits of consistent physical activity. (12)

Can Meet Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Exercise Criteria: Brisk walking meets the recommended amount of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Incline walking may bring you closer to vigorous intensity.

Increases VO2 Max: Even if it’s not as intense as cycling, research shows that consistently walking at a moderate intensity improves VO2 max and cardiovascular fitness. (13)

The Winner: Both forms of exercise are good for heart health. Walking may be better for untrained individuals because you don’t generally need any equipment or instruction to start doing it. For strength athletes, cycling may improve your cardiovascular fitness more because you can do it at a higher intensity.


Let’s wrap up with the winners in each category — cycling versus walking. Which one is better?

For Efficiency: Biking is more efficient (as long as you have a bike). You can get your heart rate up faster at any fitness level.

For Weight Loss: Although you can burn more calories on a bike, walking wins for weight loss. Walking more throughout your day outside of a workout boosts your NEAT and TDEE.

For Strength: Walking is better for strength because it is a weight-bearing activity and contributes to bone health.

For Muscle Growth: Some evidence shows muscle hypertrophy is possible with biking, especially for cyclists who perform a high volume over time, older adults, and sedentary people.

For Injury Recovery: It depends on the type of injury. Biking may be better at first if you can’t do weight-bearing activity, but walking may be better once you can to help regain bodyweight strength.

For Heart Health: Walking may be best for many sedentary people who just need to get moving. For athletes, intense cycling can lead to greater cardiovascular gains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you take 10,000 steps or do an hour of cycling?

It depends on your goal. Consistently getting 10,000 steps throughout the day may benefit your health more than one hour of cycling because you’re getting more movement and expending more total energy. However, one hour of intense cycling could burn more calories and strengthen your cardiovascular system in a more concentrated time period.

What are the pros and cons of biking versus walking?

Biking Pros:
– Gets your heart rate up
– Easier to bike fast than walk fast
– Non-weight-bearing activity, good if you need it

Biking Cons:
– You need a bike
– Non-weight-bearing exercise doesn’t help bone health for older adults

Walking Pros:
– No equipment needed
– You can walk throughout the day outside of a workout
– Weight-bearing activity, good for bone health

Walking Cons:
– Hard to walk fast enough to reach a high-intensity
– Can’t do it if you have an injury where you can’t bear weight

Is biking more environmentally friendly than walking?

They can be equally environmentally friendly, but it depends. If you’re biking or walking for transportation, in some cases, you may need to combine it with another method. For example, walking to your car and driving somewhere may be less environmentally friendly than biking the whole way. You may be able to cover a larger distance quicker on a bike than on foot.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


CDC. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Valle VS, Mello DB, Fortes Mde S, Dantas EH, Mattos MA. Effect of diet and indoor cycling on body composition and serum lipid. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2010 Aug;95(2):173-8. English, Portuguese. 

Creasy SA, Lang W, Tate DF, Davis KK, Jakicic JM. Pattern of Daily Steps is Associated with Weight Loss: Secondary Analysis from the Step-Up Randomized Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018 Jun;26(6):977-984. 

Levine JA. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;16(4):679-702. 

Benedetti MG, Furlini G, Zati A, Letizia Mauro G. The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. Biomed Res Int. 2018 Dec 23;2018:4840531. 

Ozaki H, Loenneke JP, Thiebaud RS, Abe T. Cycle training induces muscle hypertrophy and strength gain: strategies and mechanisms. Acta Physiol Hung. 2015 Mar;102(1):1-22. 

Yoshiko, A., Tomita, A., Ando, R. et al. Effects of 10-week walking and walking with home-based resistance training on muscle quality, muscle size, and physical functional tests in healthy older individuals. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 15, 13 (2018).

Patel H, Alkhawam H, Madanieh R, Shah N, Kosmas CE, Vittorio TJ. Aerobic vs anaerobic exercise training effects on the cardiovascular system. World J Cardiol. 2017 Feb 26;9(2):134-138. doi: 10.4330/wjc.v9.i2.134. PMID: 28289526; PMCID: PMC5329739.

Piercy, K. L., & Troiano, R. P. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans From the US Department of Health and Human Services. AHA Journal, 11(11).

Nordengen S, Andersen LB, Solbraa AK, Riiser A. Cycling is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases and death: Part 1 – systematic review of cohort studies with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2019 Jul;53(14):870-878. 

Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Sep 28;5:135. 

Kukkonen-Harjula K, Laukkanen R, Vuori I, Oja P, Pasanen M, Nenonen A, Uusi-Rasi K. Effects of walking training on health-related fitness in healthy middle-aged adults–a randomized controlled study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1998 Aug;8(4):236-42. 

Omura JD, Ussery EN, Loustalot F, Fulton JE, Carlson SA. Walking as an Opportunity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. Prev Chronic Dis. 2019 May 30;16:E66.

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