When it comes down to maintaining your heart health and overall fitness, establishing a good cardio routine is essential.
While there are several ways that you can go about your aerobic exercise endeavors, there are two very common and popular ways to get your heart racing: walking and cycling.
These exercises are so popular because they’re relatively accessible – with pretty minimal equipment, you can get outside and get going.
So which one is better for you?
Walking is by far the most accessible form of exercise out there for many people since you’re probably doing at least a little bit of it already.
The advantages of walking:
- Cheap. Walking doesn’t require very much equipment at all to get started. As long as you have a pair of decent walking shoes, you can start walking for exercise.
- Accessible. Walking can be done pretty much anywhere that’s safe. You can walk around your neighborhood, on the treadmill, or take it one step further and start hiking to get a really good workout.
- Low-impact. When comparing walking to other forms of cardiovascular exercise, you won’t be putting a ton of pressure on your joints, and having the right pair of shoes makes it even more comfortable.
The disadvantages of walking:
- Not very strenuous. While getting consistent moderate walks is great for maintaining your heart health, it isn’t going to get your heart racing like other higher-impact exercises like cycling will.
- Hard to continuously challenge yourself. As you continue walking, your fitness level and stamina will increase, meaning that you’ll have to walk faster, for longer distances, or on more challenging routes to get the same burn.
Cycling is another great form of exercise because it allows you to get outside and most people don’t have to learn too many new skills in order to make this workout happen.
The advantages of cycling
- Challenging. Biking can burn plenty of calories, as it’s a little more high-intensity than walking alone. You can get an especially good workout from cycling hills or going long distances.
- Strength-building. Besides a standalone cardio exercise, cycling offers a fair amount of resistance, which is great for building strong leg muscles as you work them to power your bike.
The disadvantages of cycling
- More expensive. At the very least, you need a good road or mountain bike and a protective helmet to get into cycling. You may also need special aerodynamic and weather-resistant cycling gear if you intend on biking long distances, so the costs can add up.
- Higher impact. Depending on how intense your routes are, cycling can be pretty hard on your joints, especially your knees.
A comparison of walking and cycling on your health
Any form of aerobic activity can be good for several different aspects of your health, and walking and biking are no exception.
Let’s take a look at how these two popular exercises measure up in terms of their health benefits:
With lifestyles getting more and more sedentary and heart disease quickly on the rise, everyone needs to be incorporating regular cardio workouts to keep their heart healthy. Both walking and cycling can boost your heart health by getting your heart pumping and blood flowing, leading to increased cardiovascular strength.
Walking is generally a more moderate exercise, whereas cycling involves more strenuous activity, so cycling might be the best form of exercise between the two if you’re looking to keep your heart strong.
Staying active is also a great way to build strength in your back and protecting your spine. Both walking and cycling can be relatively gentle exercises if you experience back pain, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind as well.
Walking is easily one of the lowest-impact forms of exercise that you can do, and incorporating it regularly into your routine can help improve your posture and build core strength if you have a good supportive pair of walking shoes.
Cycling, on the other hand, could be a little harder on the back depending on the route – for example, if you want to mountain bike, you’ll probably experience some jostling that could put strain on your back. On the plus side, there are certain bikes that are made specifically for people with back pain (for example, a recumbent bike).
Besides helping to maintain a healthy weight and body composition, getting aerobic exercise can also help you with your cognitive health! Studies have shown that getting regular exercise reduce inflammation and grow the size of the hippocampus in your brain, which is great news for the prevention of dementia1. In addition, getting aerobic exercise can also help with managing stress and a regular sleep cycle.
In this case, both walking and cycling are great options for aerobic activity. Cycling may provide a more intense workout, so you’ll be getting more aerobic activity, but either way works for helping to boost your brain health if done consistently.
Walking and cycling are both great forms of aerobic exercise, and your choice between the two ultimately depends on your health goals.
If you are looking for a low-impact and easily-accessible workout, walking is the clear winner. If you want to get your heart racing and have some money to spend on the right equipment, give cycling a try.
Even better, try both! Alternating these two workouts can give you the best of both worlds and let your body reap all the health benefits of each.