Walking and riding a bike are both great ways to lose weight, but which one burns more fat? Deciding can come down to your lifestyle and environment.
You can’t go wrong with either riding a bike or walking. Both are aerobic exercises, meaning they’ll help you lose weight and help keep your heart healthy. It depends on which exercise fits your lifestyle better.
How the Body Burns Fat
It helps to understand how the body burns fat when deciding whether walking or riding a bike is the exercise for you. The body gets its energy from what you eat in the form of calories. If you overeat or don't burn off extra calories, they're stored as fat. According to the Mayo Clinic , you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. It would require cutting about 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your diet to lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week.
For healthy, long-term weight loss, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a slow, consistent pace. A good place to start is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans chart, which shows what your calorie intake should be based on your age, gender and whether you lead a sedentary or active lifestyle.
The USDA goes a step further with its ChooseMyPlate tool. It uses information you plug in to calculate how many calories you need to consume to get down to a healthier weight. For example, a 35-year-old woman who weighs 150 pounds and is 5-feet, 2-inches tall would need 2,000 calories a day to stay at that weight. To get down to a healthier weight, the tool recommends eating 1,800 calories a day.
Biking for Weight Loss
Based on the Harvard Health Publishing calories-burned chart, bike riding is the way to go if your goal is to burn more fat in one workout. The chart shows that a person who weighs 155 pounds and bikes outside at a moderate pace burns 298 calories in 30 minutes. A person of the same weight who walks outside at a moderate pace for 30 minutes burns 186 calories, which is almost 100 calories less than biking.
Biking also allows you to easily switch between a moderate and more difficult work out. Some days you may choose to go slow and on other days you may want to go hard and fast. Riding a bike is considered an aerobic exercise, which according to a January 2012 article published in the journal Obesity Reviews helps fight belly fat.
The decision to bike could come down to where you live and what your budget is. If you don't live in a place with bike paths or safe roads, riding a bike may not be the best exercise choice. You also have to make an initial investment. Consumer Reports says, on average, a good bike that will last costs at least $300 as of April 2016. You'll also need a helmet, and good ones run from $20 to $50 as of July 2018, according to Consumer Reports.
Walking Versus Biking
Bike riding may burn fat faster, but don't discount walking as a great way to lose weight. If you weigh 150 pounds and walk for an hour at a 13 minute mile pace, you will have walked a little more than four miles and burned 372 calories according to Harvard Health Publishing.
You can make it a tougher workout by going up steps, hills and power walking. Each of those will elevate your heart rate and increase the amount of calories you burn. Like riding a bike, walking is also an aerobic exercise which means you can walk your way to less belly fat
Walking has the added benefit of also being good for your mental health. According to a June 2015 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, walking in nature, whether it be a trail in the woods or a park in the city helps quiet your mind and reduce negative thoughts. In a July 2018 Harvard Health Publishing post, researchers noted that the calming effects of walking outside can even lower blood pressure.
- Mayo Clinic: “Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics”
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What a Healthy Weight Loss Plan Really Looks Like”
- Health.Gov: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level”
- USDA: “ChooseMyPlate.gov”
- NCBI: “Obesity Reviews: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Aerobic vs. Resistance Exercise Training on Visceral Fat”
- Consumer Reports: “Bike Buying Guide”
- Consumer Reports: “Bike Helmet Buying Guide”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights“
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Sour Mood Getting You Down? Get Back to Nature“