Walking Vs Biking: What Burns More Calories?

Aerobic exercises, like walking and biking, offer a lot more than just weight loss, muscle tone, and good cardio that's beneficial for your heart and lungs. They give you a reason to step out into nature and take in the outdoors while staying active. This is probably why walking and cycling are two of the most loved forms of aerobic exercise out there. 

But if you're new to walking or biking, or you're thinking about switching from walking, which is your primary form of exercise, to taking up cycling instead, you might be wondering which burns more calories. 

The answer may look straightforward from the outset — cycling does look like it requires more effort — but there are certain nuances to keep in mind. When comparing the same intensity level for each workout within the same time frame – 30 minutes to be exact — cycling burns more calories than walking, according to Healthline. If you're biking at 12–13.9 miles per hour (which is considered moderate intensity for biking), you'll burn 285 calories. With walking, the equivalent moderate intensity level of 4.0 miles per hour burns 179 calories in 30 minutes. But burning calories, at least for weight loss purposes, is all about sustainability. You have to be able to maintain one form of exercise consistently if you want to see results. Walking might be an easier choice in this regard. 

Walking has fewer barriers to entry than biking

Think about it. If you want to walk, all you have to do is get outdoors and start. At the most, you'd require a decent pair of walking shoes to get you going. There's a lot more opportunity for it and spaces in which you can adapt and still get your steps in each day. But with cycling, the cost and space to exercise properly could become a problem. Bicycles — good ones that'll last you a decent amount of time — can be expensive, and you'd probably want to get yourself a helmet too if you plan on biking down streets or rough terrain that may require additional protection. 

Also, as explained by nutritionist and personal trainer David Wiener (via Fit and Well), you could feel embarrassed about not knowing how to ride a bike (if you never learned as a kid), but this shouldn't stop you from pursuing the exercise. "There shouldn't be any embarrassment involved in not knowing how to cycle properly, and don't think you missed your chance if you didn't learn while you were younger," shared Wiener.

But if cost and finding an appropriate bike route aren't concerns for you, cycling is an excellent cardio exercise. The key is to keep the intensity going (find biking paths that won't force you to stop for traffic lights or take leisurely trips downhill). The same is true for walking. Intensity, pace, and how many miles you walk matter here too. 

Walking and biking work the same muscles

If you're thinking about what muscles get worked out with both of these aerobic exercises, the answer would be pretty much the same lower parts of your body:  glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. In fact, you may want to think about stationary cycling if you're really going for muscle tone with biking, according to Penny Weston, fitness expert and founder of wellness center Made (via Live Science). With cycling indoors, you'd also be eliminating the distraction of traffic lights, thereby giving yourself more control over your exercise. 

When it comes to walking and strengthening your leg muscles, "Walking across different terrains such as hills is particularly effective at doing this. Muscle tissue burns four times as many calories as fat, so the muscles you build through walking can also help you to lose more weight by reducing fat and building muscle instead," explained Weston. 

Ultimately, the exercise you choose has to be something you enjoy so that you'd be motivated to ride a bike every day or slip outdoors after work for a power walk. And whichever one you choose, try to be mindful of the pace you're going at and how many hours a week you're engaging in it. Nutrition is another big part of the entire process. Eat balanced, nutritious meals and avoid unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and simple carbs. Being in a calorie deficit is a combination of proper exercise and good nutrition.