Like many beginners who wish to set out on a fitness journey, you may be grappling with the walking vs running dilemma.
Whether you’re looking to improve heart health, burn calories, lose belly fat, among other goals such as enhancing joint health, both walking and running can be beneficial.
Technically, walking and running are different terms for foot strikes. Both activities engage the same muscles, including quads (muscles in the thighs), hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Also involved are arms, shoulders, and core muscles.
The key difference between the two activities is the intensity level, which determines how much benefit each will offer to the body.
Let’s walk together to find out the following:
- What science says about walking and running
- Benefits of walking vs running
- Why walking is safer
- Benefits of running
- How to choose between walking and running
What Does Science Say About Walking vs Running?
Science sheds light on the difference between walking and running as a way to keep healthy. Luiz Carlos Hespanhol, a Dutch researcher, states that walking and running offer related health benefits but, running is more efficient than walking.
Running for five minutes each day offers more health benefits, equivalent to walking for 15 minutes, which means running offers the benefits a lot faster.
One report by MedicineNet also reports joggers live longer than non-joggers. The study shows that males would extend their life expectancy by 6.2 years, whereas females add up to 5.6 years in their life expectancy.
So, generally, running and walking will offer you similar benefits, but walking will take you more time to realise the benefits than running.
Walking vs Running
We’ve seen that walking and running offer the same health benefits but with slightly varying efficiency levels and different time-frames.
Below is a roundup of health benefits associated with walking vs running.
- Strenuous pace: Seven miles uphill run will help you burn around 780 calories per hour.
- Steady run: Run six miles steadily and burn up to 680 calories per hour.
- Light jog: Five miles of running will help you burn about 550 calories per hour.
- Brisk walk: Walk four miles per hour at a faster pace and burn 300 calories.
- Leisurely walk: A two-mile leisure stroll will help you burn up to 150 calories per hour.
- Moderate pace: Walk for three miles at an average speed and burn 220 calories per hour.
One study by the American Council on Exercise shows that a person weighing 160 pounds will burn up to 51.1 calories every minute when running. On the other hand, a person of the same weight walking will burn about 8.7 calories every minute.
Reducing Belly Fat
Running and walking are both helpful in shedding belly fat.
While intense activities such as running have been found to reduce belly fat faster and manage obesity better, another 2008 review attributed the effective abdominal fat loss to low-intensity activities. In contrast, high-intensity activities reduce overall body fat faster.
As a result, if you intend to set a goal of reducing belly fat, you may need to consult your doctor to help you determine the best exercise and dietary plans.
Improving Heart Health
A report by American Heart Association states that walking for about 150 minutes every week lowers heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes.
Another study published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Journal shows that running and walking reduce hypertension risk, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol level, and diabetes.
However, there was no direct address on whether running and walking benefit cardio and heart health.
Other health benefits associated with both running and walking include:
- Improved sleep patterns
- Increased stamina
- Low-stress levels
- Enhanced immune system
- Boosting bone density
Why Walking is Safer Than Running
Walking will take you longer to see commendable health benefits. However, there are many reasons running is safer than walking.
Below are reasons you would choose walking over running as a way of keeping fit.
While walking impacts the ground up to a paltry 1.5 times the body weight, running produces up to three times the bodyweight impact on the ground for every step.
The impact ratio is significant for those who have joint problems or are overweight since it charges back into the body.
Walking makes you feel less fatigue, reduces body wear and tear, and still lowers bone loss just as running does.
Across all aerobic exercises, walking produces fewer to no injuries at all. Compared to running, researchers point out that half of all athletes suffer running injuries yearly.
It’s also suspected that stressful long runs and running injuries may cause bodily changes leading to osteoarthritis, the most prevalent arthritis type in the UK.
Accessibility and Sustainability
Any exercise requires consistency for you to realise excellent results. Sporadic high-intensity activities such as rope jumping or running promise quick results but are not easy to maintain compared to walking.
If you enjoy walking, a brisk walk of 30 to 45 minutes is more sustainable than running, which most people find uncomfortable. It’s comfortable to do a quick walk anywhere, even in crowds, compared to running.
The bottom line is consistency with the eye on the price.
Heat sickness is unlikely if you walk in hot climates than if you run. However, you must still be cautious to avoid overheating.
Additionally, you’ll walk comfortably in most climates, even during lunch breaks, and fail to shower afterward but still feel comfortable. You may always need to shower after running.
Walkers Don’t Hit the Wall
Long-distance runners experience extreme fatigue after depleting all the energy reserves. On the other hand, walkers rely on aerobics as the primary source of energy, which is why they’ll never hit the wall irrespective of the distance covered.
You can always refuel as you walk since the body has enough time to digest more fuel to keep you going.
Stress Relieving, Social, and Enjoyable
Walkers will stop for a view, duck into a mall, enjoying some snacks, and it’s still a regular part of your exercise routine. On the other hand, runners will always jog on since their intent is beating some time frame.
Research has also shown that a walk in natural settings like a park helps lower stress and rumination.
Walking in itself is fun as it does not deplete more body energy, which would otherwise prevent you from carrying out other activities later. A walk with family members or friends having some conversation is enough fun.
Requires No Special Preparation
You don’t have to gear up every time you want to take a walk. You can decide to throw on some comfortable shoes if you have the time. However, taking your daily errands barefoot or walking to work is already part of your daily workout.
A walking workout on a treadmill may require some athletic clothing.
Benefits of Running Over Walking
Apart from achieving your exercise goal results faster than walking, here are more advantages of running over walking.
Intense activities such as uphill running and other interval sprints engage more muscles. That may cause you to continue burning calories for up to 48 hours (after-burn effect) until all the muscles recover fully.
Walkers may not enjoy the after-burn effect benefits since they experience very mild pain only after a brisk walk, which fades away within minutes.
Burns Harmful Belly Fats
Studies suggest that intense aerobics such as running can reduce your belly fat without the need to adjust your diet.
Due to the intense impact on the ground when running, the whole body generally benefits, unlike walking, which is more relaxed.
Suppressed Appetite to Aid Faster Weight Loss
Across all aerobics, running is one of the safest, trusted, and quickest ways to lose weight. Not only does it impact intensely on your body, your appetite significantly lowers since running reduces the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
However, some people report increased hunger, which is why you need to watch out lest you risk suppressing your weight loss journey instead.
Walking vs Running: Which One Should You Choose?
Recommended weekly exercise duration should be 150 to 300 minutes for modest activities such as walking, whereas vigorous exercises like running should last between 75 and 150 minutes.
So, you will achieve your fitness goal irrespective of which one you choose. However, the most important thing is getting out and doing something. It’s easier to transition into walking as part of exercise than doing a running session.
You’ll afford a walk in some health statuses that may not allow you to run.
Important: Stick to either walking or running if you can keep the consistency.
Walking and running are both beneficial in keeping fit, which is why the walking vs running debate should not trouble you. While running may help you achieve your fitness goals faster, ask yourself if you’re disciplined enough to stick to your schedules.
On the other hand, walking is safer and more sustainable, but do you have the patience to wait for the results?
Consider other factors like your fitness goals to help you determine what suits you better. Your health status and body size should also guide you on which type of exercise to embrace.
Furthermore, you have the freedom to do both. You can schedule your running and walking days in alternate patterns. If you can’t walk, run. If you can’t run, just walk, as long as you are doing something constructive to help you keep fit!