Fitness & Nutrition

Walking v. Running v. Cycling: What’s the Best Exercise?

March 13, 2020

Conventional wisdom was and is that the exercise you enjoy doing and will do regularly is the right one for you. Still, different forms of moving your muscles and getting your heart pumping have different benefits, even while they provide all the great pluses of exercise: stronger heart and lungs, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of a whole host of diseases, and greater sense of well-being, to name just a few.

In the spirit of healthy competition, however, here’s a rundown of three accessible, popular exercise options—a real grudge match of exercises that have never fallen out of favor (unlike all that stuff that used to happen in leotards or at Suzanne Somers’ behest). Which exercise will take home the title? Stay tuned.

Calorie Burn

If you’re pressed for time or aiming for weight loss, burning more calories faster may be important to you. You can get estimates specific to your body weight and your exercise intensity. For our purposes, here are some hourly averages for calories burned by a 155-pound person:

Winner: Running


You can walk in a whole range of shoes and in any comfy clothes. Pick up the pace, and gear becomes more important, from shoes that suit your gait to socks that fend off blisters (and depending on your mammary situation, a few high-tech sports bras). As for biking, you’ll need the bike (road or stationary) or a gym membership. Shoes, for sure, and if you’re going to log your miles outside, a helmet, padded shorts, and water bottles, at a minimum. In other words? A whole lot of stuff.

Winner: Walking

Risk of Injury

From stress fractures to Achilles tendinitis to IT band issues, running produces a lot of injuries, especially when you’re pushing hard to gain speed or prepare for a distance race. Brisk walking can produce some very minor injuries, like shin splints. Because it’s not weight-bearing, cycling is the least likely to cause injury—especially if you’re doing it in the gym.

Winner: Biking

Cardiovascular Health

If you’re reaching your target heart rate, your exercise method is doing its job. Brisk walking, running, and cycling can all get you there.

Winner: All

And the winner is . . .

They’re all fantastic. Do what you like, and aim for doing it (or all three) about 150 minutes per week.