While pedaling away on an exercise bike and walking through the neighborhood both offer aerobic benefits, each exercise comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, the exercises share some common perks, such as improvements to joint health and cardiovascular well-being. Ultimately, there is no clear winner between the two – the best exercise is the exercise that best meets your own fitness goals, physical limitations and personal preferences.
Both exercises improve cardiovascular health, helping you increase your endurance and improve your circulation. Walking or riding an exercise bike causes the body to release endorphins, which contribute to emotional well-being and help alleviate stress. As moderate-level physical activities, 30 minutes of walking or biking per day potentially reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood pressure and reduces the risk of common cancers and diabetes.
For those focused on losing weight, the number of calories burned is paramount when picking an aerobic exercise. In this department, an exercise bike workout trumps walking. According to HealthStatus.com's calories burned calculator, walking burns 189 to 351 calories per hour for a 150-pound person, depending on walking speed. Meanwhile, the same time spent on an exercise bike burns between 477 and 774 calories per hour for a 150-pound person, likewise depending on the intensity of pedaling.
An exercise bike requires an expensive purchase, which can range from a few hundred dollars for an entry-level machine or thousands of dollars for an advanced model, or a gym membership, while walking only requires a good pair of shoes with ample arch support. Both exercises accommodate the addition of an upper-body workout via low-weight dumbbells or resistance bands, but the exercise bike accommodates more multitasking opportunities, such as reading or watching TV while working out. If you have trouble keeping up with a regular workout, however, the American Heart Association reports that walking has the lowest dropout rate of all exercises.
While both exercises are low-impact – making them ideal for those new to exercise – walking may cause more lower-body joint stress, as it requires the body to support your weight. In particular, recumbent exercise bikes – which feature back support – offer a better option for those who suffer from back pain. However, recumbent bikes burn fewer calories than upright bikes. Former USA Track and Field Association runner Carolyn S. Kortge touts the mental benefits of walking, noting that getting outside and changing your scenery allows you to refocus your mind. Walking and using an exercise bike can exist side-by-side in your aerobic routine, but you should always allow specific muscle groups at least 24 hours of recovery before working them again.
- HealthStatus.com: Calories Burned Calculator
- American Heart Association: The Benefits of Walking
- Arthritis Today: Mental Benefits of Walking
- Mayo Clinic: Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health
- Spine-Health: Pain Relief and Aerobic Benefits of an Exercise Bike
- ShareCare: Is a Recumbent Bike or a Stationary Bike More Effective for Fat Loss?
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images