Fitness experts agree that walking and riding a bicycle are two of the best low-impact exercises you can utilize to lose weight and stay in shape.
Of course, there are disagreements among various camps as to which of these two exercises is superior; some saying bike riding is better than walking, while others claim they are equal.
Both have benefits, and your goals will decide if they are equal or not.
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Before we discuss bike riding and walking, and the benefits both provide, remember that the value of exercise is measured both by calories burned and cardiovascular stress achieved.
Deciding whether riding a bike or walking is better for you is dependent on both of these factors and how important each one is in your exercise regimen.
At the end of the day, the value of any kind of exercise can only be measured in terms of how well it helps you achieve your fitness goals.
When distance is the same, is riding a bike equal to walking for exercise?
In discussing this question many people make the mistake of comparing the exercises in terms of distance.
In fact, you often hear people asking how many miles on a bike is equal to one mile of walking.
The fact is, distance can be deceiving in this equation because you achieve greater distance on a bike, with less effort, than you do with a brisk walk.
Most fitness experts who have calculated calorie burn for both exercises base their numbers on time spent rather than distance traveled.
In several studies conducted by reputable scientists, it was determined that, under equal conditions, bike riding was at least equal to walking. The tests were conducted indoors to eliminate the issues of terrain, winds, and other environmental factors which affect both walking and riding a bike.
The study determined that a brisk, 30-minute walk on flat terrain for a 155 pound man burns about 149 calories. The same 155 pound man engaging in 30 minutes of bike riding burns about 290 calories.
Right off the bat, in controlled conditions, it would seem that riding a bike is equal to walking for exercise, if not better. But the one thing to keep in mind is that for these tests, the biking was done consistently for 30 minutes.
In other words, the subject did not bike for a few minutes and then coast for a few minutes; he peddled continuously for 30 straight minutes.
That factor might be the deciding one that prevents casual bike riders from achieving the same calorie burn as walkers. As long as the bike rider does not stop peddling he continues to burn the maximum number of calories, but for every minute he coasts, he is not burning as many.
Is riding a bike equal to walking for exercise, if the terrain is different?
Terrain is one of the biggest factors in determining the difference between riding a bike and walking for exercise. Since you cover more distance on the bike over the same period of time, you will undoubtedly also experience more differences in terrain. The more inclines and declines you experience, the more effort is needed to continually move your bicycle. All things considered, mountain biking would be better than walking on flat terrain in terms of burning calories -- but only if you peddle continuously.
Is riding a bike equal to walking for exercise in terms of cardiovascular stress?
Because different terrain affects bike riders in different ways, it's nearly impossible to determine calorie burn on a course where the terrain changes frequently. In such a case, it's far easier to measure cardiovascular stress, which might be a better purpose for bike riding anyway. It's generally agreed among fitness experts that bike riding on rugged terrain is better cardiovascular exercise than a brisk walk on flat terrain.
If your exercise program is designed to both burn calories and increase cardiovascular fitness, you might want to incorporate both kinds of exercise. Take a brisk walk on flat terrain on one day, ride your bike for the same amount of time on the next day, and so on. You get the benefits of both while at the same time exercising different muscle groups and breaking up the monotony of a single-exercise routine.
Regardless of whether or not bike riding is equal to walking for exercise, experts agree that they are comparable, and they are two of the best exercises you can do. So get out there and do them!
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