Healthy Living

The Power of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Sep. 15, 2023
How Going for a Walk or Bike Ride Will Help You on Your Path to Living Well

You or someone you know is probably pushing to reach 10,000 steps today, but is that really how much everyone should be walking every day? If you can’t walk fast or ride your bike far distances, is it even worth it?  What about a long walk versus a quick run—which is better? And, as winter looms, is it okay if we turn to the treadmill or stationary bike instead of braving the snowy trails? We asked URMC Fitness Science’s Director of Operations, Conner Lorenzo, MS, ATC, CSCS, USAW, SFMA, to help us put our best foot forward.

Which is better for my health­–a longer walk or bike ride or a shorter run?

You should base your choice of walking, biking, or running on your personal goals.

If you’re looking to lose weight, a longer walk is a better fit. Walking regularly increases your basil metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the average number of calories your body burns while resting over 24 hours. Compared to running, walking will keep you in a lower heart rate zone, where a greater portion of the calories burned will be fat.

If you’d like to improve bone and joint health, walking or biking—as low-impact activities—will help maintain bone density and decrease stiffness.

If your cardiovascular health is the focus, then running or biking is the better choice. You will stay in a higher heart rate zone, which can help improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

With biking, it is easy to get your heart rate up quickly without sacrificing the impact. It lets you work at a higher intensity than walking, but without the negative impact on your joints that running can have.

Is it better to walk and bike outside or on a treadmill or stationary bike?

In general, one is not better than the other. It comes down to what you prefer.

Walking or biking outside on variable terrain challenges your coordination and joint mobility, but the safety of the treadmill can also be beneficial. The latest stationary bikes allow a lot of variability and are a great option for a workout.

If you enjoy taking in the sights and scenery, head on outside. If the weather is poor (we do live in Rochester, after all), a treadmill or stationary bike might be a better choice.

Cycling classes offer the benefits of community and instruction. The structure of a class can also help you stay on a certain program. If you choose to attend a class, be aware of the type and level to be sure that it matches your current ability and pace.

Recumbent bikes—the ones you sit back in at an angle—are completely different from a traditional bike. Those are best for post-injury recovery rather than general exercise.

How far should I walk or bike each day?

The general recommendation is 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise each week, which can include biking or walking.

While 10,000 steps a day is a great goal for walking, everyone starts at a different level. Track your steps and try to progress slowly each week. Regardless of the pace you walk at, you will see the benefits.

If you’re just starting to bike regularly, bike at a leisurely pace and increase your duration every few times by a couple of minutes. Generally, it takes three to four weeks to establish cardiovascular foundation. When in doubt, listen to your body.  

What kind of exercise should I do if my body is sore from a workout?

If you need a day off from high-intensity exercise, move the body through functional movement patterns with biking, walking, swimming, yoga, or Pilates. These low-impact activities will get your heart rate up a bit without putting stress on your body, and getting blood flow to sore areas will allow for a quicker recovery.

Overall, you want to change up your type of exercise whenever you can. It’s always good to target different muscle groups and mix in different intensities and movements. Repetition to an extent is not good for your body. If you only run or you only bike, your body is repeating one type of movement, which will increase your risk of injury. Changing up the modalities in which you exercise is really important.

Looking to start your exercise journey? Join the Wilmot Warrior Weekend September 29-October 1, 2023, and walk, run, or bike to raise money for the Wilmot Cancer Institute.