Man rides indoor Peloton Bike at home

Cycling vs. Walking: Which Is a Better Workout?

We break down the pros and cons of each one.

By Emilia BentonNovember 28, 2023


If you’re looking to add more regular exercise to your routine but aren’t sure where to start, you may be wondering if you should start with biking vs. walking and if one is better than the other. While both are great ways to incorporate regular exercise, what’s best for one person depends on a variety of factors.

Both biking and walking are some of the most popular forms of exercise in the world. They’re both great workout options and both have their perks and drawbacks, depending on your personal lifestyle and individual needs. While both can get your heart pumping if you keep the pace brisk, cycling is more likely to burn more calories and help you build strength. However, while cycling is typically more efficient and challenging, walking is more accessible for those who don’t have equipment like a road or indoor bike, and can be done anywhere you go, says Peloton Instructor Olivia Amato.  

“Biking is a better workout for someone who is trying to easily increase their heart rate and/or has an injury or condition where weight-bearing cardio exercise may not be good for them,” Olivia says. 

Biking vs. Walking Benefits

Both biking and walking offer various health and wellness benefits. Not only that, but they can both also help you multi-task—assuming you don’t live that far from your workplace cycling can be an efficient way to commute and can even be potentially faster than driving or using public transportation. If you have a bit more time to spare, walking can make for a worthwhile commute as well. One study even showed that active commuting such as cycling was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and all other causes of death, while walking was also associated with lower risk of heart disease as well. 

However, if if you’re particularly interested in building your endurance (i.e. the length of time you can perform a certain activity) and stamina (i.e. how long you can perform the activity at max effort), cycling will win out, as you can get to a much higher intensity level while cycling than walking. Stamina and endurance go hand in hand, and how much of each you have ultimately depends on your current fitness level, or the state of your muscles and cardiovascular system. 

Biking benefits

Additionally, while it may not seem like it at first glance, biking can actually be a pretty versatile workout that helps to strengthen your muscles and build endurance while also boosting heart and lung function. Research has also shown that indoor cycling can boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol

According to Olivia, you can mix up the intensity of your indoor cycling workout by increasing your resistance, cadence, and output efforts, or by adding in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and power zone training, all of which are easy to incorporate when working out on a Peloton Bike.

Biking can also be a happy medium between walking and running if you’re wary of the latter due to being injury-prone, since your bodyweight is supported by the saddle. Riding downhill is also easier on the joints than running and can actually serve to help you recover. 

Finally, biking can also provide a mental wellness boost as you age, with research showing that it can help to ease feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety, and improve cognitive function in older adults.

Additionally, with a Peloton Bike (and the Peloton App) you can access daily live classes with some of the best instructors, as well as thousands of on-demand classes. You also don’t have to worry about your fitness level, as there are a variety of workouts to choose from based on class type, length, music, intensity level, instructor, and more.

Walking benefits

Like biking, walking can be an effective form of cardio if you’re conscious about upping the intensity either by increasing the pace on your Peloton Tread, or by picking it up to a power-walk outside. But even if you’re getting a walk in on your day off from working out and simply want to get some fresh air, walking can be a great tool for simply improving your mood and mindset, Olivia says. Research backs this up, too—according to one study, subjects who took regular walks or performed other forms of exercise had better emotional health than those who did not exercise regularly.

“Walking absolutely can provide mental health benefits such as providing endorphins that lift your mood and clear your mind,” Olivia adds. Plus, you can even try meditating while you walk for an added boost in reducing stress.

Additionally, if you’re motivated by numbers such as how many steps you walk per day, increasing the duration of your walks can naturally help you meet your goal step count faster. Ten thousand steps are equivalent to about five miles, depending on your stride, which will generally take about 1.5 to 2 hours of walking at an average pace. Going for this long of a walk can also help you burn calories while also helping to build your overall muscle endurance and boosting heart health

When it comes to gear needs for biking vs. walking—for biking, you’ll need an indoor bike such as a Peloton Bike or Bike+, or an outdoor bike (and, of course, a helmet). For walking, you’ll need a treadmill such as the Peloton Tread or Tread+ if you prefer to work out indoors. Olivia also recommends purchasing some light weights (1, 2, and 3 pounds) to up the intensity. 

Man walks outside wearing headphones

How the Workouts Complement Each Other 

According to Olivia, biking and walking can easily complement each other. Not only can you alternate between the two to mix things up, you can also do both in one day if you feel up to it, as walking isn’t as intense an activity as biking.

“It’s great and important to switch up your workouts,” Olivia says. “It makes you a more well-rounded athlete, both mentally and physically.” 

What Muscles Do Biking and Walking Work?

Both cycling and walking primarily work your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Cycling also heavily incorporates your glute muscles, while walking also works your hip adductors.

Does biking or walking build more strength?

While long walks can help to strengthen your muscles, it’s probably not surprising that cycling is overall more efficient when it comes to building strength. Resistance training on the bike will help your leg muscles get stronger, thanks to you pushing hard against the pedals with each downward and upward stroke. This is especially true when you turn up the resistance on your bike throughout class, which you will often do in Peloton cycling classes

If you want to challenge yourself further while walking, there are plenty of ways to add variety, Olivia says. Some examples include:

  • Walking with light weights

  • Picking up your pace outdoors or by increasing the speed on your treadmill 

  • Adding an incline on the treadmill or walking in a hilly area

Additionally, if you find that zoning out to the scenery isn’t doing it for you in terms of keeping outdoor walks interesting, you can also find outdoor walking, hiking, and cooldown classes on the Peloton App. Options include Power Walk, Pop Walk, and even Walk + Run if you’re gradually trying to work your way up to incorporating running into your routine. Difficulty levels range from beginner to advanced and classes last anywhere from 10-75 minutes in duration.

Is Biking Harder Than Walking?

In that vein, it’s probably also not surprising to hear that biking is generally harder than walking in terms of exercising at an intense pace. As such, biking will burn more calories because your muscles are being put to work at a higher intensity. Exactly how many calories you’ll burn will depend on just how intensely you’re pedaling, though, in addition to individual factors like your weight and metabolism.

If you’re starting from square one in terms of starting an exercise routine, this is where it might make more sense to start with walking, which can absolutely be a good source of cardiovascular exercise. Committing to just 20 minutes a day of walking is a great way to kickstart a fitness routine without making it too daunting for yourself.

Both biking and walking provide several health benefits, including maintaining optimal blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which are key for heart and lung health, as well as increasing your longevity and quality of life. 

Biking vs. Walking: Which is Better Based on Your Goals?

Ultimately, choosing biking vs. walking depends on personal goals and preferences, as well as wellness factors, Olivia says. Some examples of these include:

  • Whether you enjoy working out inside or outside 

  • If you are participating in a specific race 

  • If you have access to equipment such as a bike

  • Possible injuries or conditions 

Final Takeaways

Ultimately neither biking or walking wins in terms of one being “better” than the other. Whichever one is best for you ultimately depends on your individual preferences and fitness needs, as well as which one you simply find to be more enjoyable. You can figure out which suits you best by trying on-demand Peloton Tread and Bike classes free for 30 days on the Peloton App.


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