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Cycling vs walking: which is better for weight loss?
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Cycling vs walking: which is better for weight loss?

Cycling and walking are both great cardiovascular activities that aid weight loss and keep various health conditions away. Pick one that suits your fitness goals and physical condition, say experts
Cycling and walking are great in building muscular endurance.
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

Cycling and walking were earlier crucial aspects of people’s daily commute. As efficient alternatives cropped up, they have become more of a hobby or exercise exertion. As more and more people face issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle, experts recommend reintroducing these activities into our regular lives. While incorporating them into an exercise regimen is great, it is even better to make them part of the daily routine — such as traveling for work or chores.

The positive impact of these two activities on the body is the same. At the same time, their dynamics, exercise physiology and biomechanics, and efficiency in terms of workout and calorie consumption are different. That brings us to an important question: cycling vs walking — which one is better?

Cycling vs walking: Benefits

Both cycling and walking are categorized as NEAT activities and come with many health benefits. They improve cardiovascular fitness, help in weight management, boost mood and mental well-being, increase endurance, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

“Cycling will build your endurance level. It is also good for the heart and lungs, and the blood flow will increase your lung capacity,” shares Deekshith Gowda, fitness coach at The OutFit Gym, Bengaluru. “It will increase the strength of your quadriceps or quads.”

Cycling primarily works the leg muscles — the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Walking, on the other hand, engages a broader range of muscles, including those in the lower body, core, and even the upper body to some extent. If you’re looking for a full-body workout, walking is more effective since it engages multiple muscle groups.

“The quadriceps gastrocnemius muscle (a calf muscle heavily involved in posture and waking) works in both activities. While walking, fewer of these muscles are in use unless you are walking briskly or moving at a higher pace. In cycling, the load is primarily on the quads,” adds Gowda.

Cycling and walking for weight loss

The fat-burning potential of both cycling and walking depends on various factors, including duration, intensity, and individual fitness levels. High-intensity cycling can burn more calories in a shorter time, potentially leading to more fat loss during the activity. Walking is also effective for fat loss when done consistently and for longer durations.

“Both walking and cycling can contribute to burning fat,” says Biswajit Sahoo, fitness coach and nutritionist at FITTR, Bengaluru. “They are aerobic exercises that help you burn calories, including those stored as fat.”

To target belly fat specifically, it’s important to maintain a calorie-deficit diet with exercise. High-intensity cycling may have a slight edge in burning calories, but consistency matters more for fat loss.

Cycling vs walking: What builds more strength?

Walking and cycling can help improve muscular endurance and strength, particularly in the lower body and the core. However, if your goal is to build muscle strength, cycling and walking may not be effective as they are focused on cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Strength training exercises with weights or resistance training are more suited to attain such a goal.

While leg muscles do develop even with milder exercises such as cycling and walking, experts recommend mixing it up with a good weight training routine. This ensures the overall development of the body, both in terms of strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Which activity is best while recovering from injury?

One needs to get the go-ahead from a doctor to start any physical activity post an injury. Sahoo says, “The choice between cycling and walking after recovering from an injury depends on the nature of the injury. Generally, walking is lower impact and may be a safer option for rehabilitation.”

Cycling can be employed too, especially if the knee is injured. For instance, it is recommended for those recovering from injuries to the knee tissue.

Which activity should become part of your daily routine?

The convenience factor has a big say in whether the activity becomes part of your daily routine. This depends on individual preferences and circumstances. “Walking is often more accessible and requires minimal equipment. You can do it almost anywhere,” shares Sahoo. “Cycling may require a bike and, in some cases, specific terrain or infrastructure. Both can be convenient, depending on your location and personal preferences.”

Takeaways

  • Cycling and walking are great fitness activities that help enhance cardiovascular health, reduce the chances of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, and help in weight management.
  • Burning fat through both cycling and walking depends on various factors, including duration, intensity, individual fitness levels, and consistency.
  • Those aiming at improved muscle strength and endurance should include a weight training routine alongside regular walking and cycling.

Share Your Experience/Comments

14 Responses

  1. Good topic raised in this era of Gym culture. Realistic analysis will compel to all to think about this issue.

  2. In my opinion the best out of two is ” Walk like cycling”. That means, one should do conscious walking focused on hip ball joints of both legs alternately. For every step push your knees through the ball joints and place the mid foot on the floor and role it to feel the pressure in calf muscles. Walking is definitely better than cycling but many do not focus on the ball joints of hip.

  3. Nice information. I’ve chosen to walk 7km in the morning and do a little weight training in the evening.

  4. A good read. Clears the common confusion associated with effectiveness of the two activities.
    Love this article.

  5. Cycling is better for obese people because once you sit on the seat your entire body weight goes to the ground via different suspension mechanisms of the cycle, viz., seat spring, spokes, air in tyre etc. But while walking your entire body weight goes to earth via your knees. Gravitational pull is the main culprit to puul our body weight. In cycling once you ride and sit the knees are not that much burdened as in walking. For obese people cycling is better to start with.

  6. Cycling is better for one reason for people above 50 years of age. Osteoporosis sets in and with walking on hard surface it gets aggravated as maximum body weight impacts the knees whereas in cycling bulk of the upper torso is resting on cycle saddle and only thighs and lower muscles area is at work. I been cycling since 2006 and have done more Than 1,25,000 kms.

  7. I am 59 doing cycling daily about 8 to 9 Km moderate peddling only provide good health life.

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Cycling and walking are both great cardiovascular activities that aid weight loss and keep various health conditions away. Pick one that suits your fitness goals and physical condition, say experts

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