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.”
- 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.