Stationary Bicycle Vs. Walking for Exercise

Young woman exercising on an exercise bike

Stationary bicycling and walking are two of the best exercises, according to numerous exercise experts. Stationary bicycling is an excellent exercise for cardiovascular fitness, leg strength and weight loss. Walking burns far fewer calories than stationary bicycling in the short-term, but is an excellent long-term weight-loss exercise. Dr. Dean Ornish chose walking as the best exercise after years of research because it provides most of the health benefits of other exercises and has “the lowest risk of injury or sudden cardiac death."

High Rankings

Exercise expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper ranks walking and stationary bicycling as two of the six best exercises. He writes that walking is particularly good for previously sedentary people and older people. He recommends stationary bicycling because it simultaneously strengthens bicyclists’ arms and legs and causes far fewer injuries than jogging and outdoors bicycling. The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook’s “Choosing the Right Exercise” report lists 10 exercises, including stationary bicycling and walking. Walking is praised for being “relatively easy” on joints throughout the body and being better than stationary bicycling for people with knee problems. Stationary bicycling improves strength more than walking and lets people change the intensity of their workouts by changing the bicycle’s resistance.


“Harvard Men’s Health Watch” reported in 2009 that 11 years of moderate exercise, “typically walking or riding a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes three times a week,” reduced 8,946 patients’ risk of death by 20 percent and risk of death via heart disease by 26 percent in 48 studies. Ornish reported that people who walk 30 minutes daily for eight years have a premature death rate that is about 60 percent lower than sedentary people’s death rate. He also wrote that people are seven times more likely to die while running than while doing sedentary activities. He concluded that walking is better for people’s health than vigorous exercise.

Short-Term Weight Loss

Vigorous stationary bicycling is the best weight-loss exercise among gym activities, according to the “Harvard Heart Letter.” It burns 782 calories per hour in 155-pound people and 932 calories per hour in 185-pound people. Moderate stationary bicycling burns 520 and 622 calories per hour in the same people. Vigorous exercise raises your heart rate to 70 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate; moderate exercise raises your heart rate to 55 to 70 percent of its maximum. The maximum heart rate is 220 heartbeats per minute minus age. In contrast, walking 4.5 mph, the fastest speed most people can walk without changing their technique and becoming power walkers, burns 372 and 444 calories per hour in 155- and 185-pound people.

Long-Term Weight Loss

Walking is an excellent long-term weight-loss exercise because it can be done daily for years. It can be incorporated into everyday activities, causes very few injuries and is inexpensive. “Harvard Men’s Health Watch” reported that people who weighed 160 pounds when a weight-loss study began and walked 35 minutes daily for 15 years gained 18 fewer pounds than nonwalkers. Stationary bicycling can also be a great long-term weight-loss exercise, but the pressure it puts on joints increases the chances that it won’t be a long-term exercise. Replacing a stationary bicycle can also be expensive.