We all know that walking and running are great ways to exercise. But have you ever done a comparison to see which one is best for you and your fitness goals? In this article, we’ll do just that.
We’ll look at the advantages of walking versus running, which one is more helpful for burning calories and losing weight, and which one you should do based on your needs.
Why Walking is Great
It can be easy to see walking as running’s ugly stepsister, but it has a lot of benefits that you can’t find in running:
- Good for All Types of People
- Easy to Add Into Your Schedule
- Great for Socializing
Walking is good for all different types of people because it’s low impact. If you have ankle, back, or knee problems, if you’re older, if you’re pregnant, or if you’re overweight, running might be really hard on your body. But walking isn’t, and you still get a cardio workout.
Additionally, it’s easy to convince yourself to go for a nice evening walk after work. Even if you’re super tired, you don’t have to exert as much energy walking versus running. It might be a great excuse to wake up early and see the sun rise, too.
Finally, while it’s definitely great to run with friends, walking is more conducive to socializing. You can get a group of friends together and go for a nice walk and be able to talk the whole time. You’re getting physical exercise plus friend time. Bonus points if you’re out in nature.
Why Running is Great
Running is one of the best cardio workouts out there, but it has plenty of other reasons why it’s great to do:
- Good for Your Heart
- You’ll Get a Mood Boost With the Runner’s High
- Strengthens Your Joints
Running helps to decrease your resting heart rate. Day-to-day, outside exercise, this means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. As a result, running can significantly decrease your risk of death from a cardiovascular disease.
One study found that regular runners are half as likely to die from heart disease compared to people who don’t run. That’s a huge advantage, and it applies even to people who run at slower speeds!
If you’ve never experienced a runner’s high, you might be skeptical, but it most definitely is a real thing. When you run, your body floods with endorphins and endocannabinoids. If you need a mood booster, one of the best ways to do it is running.
Finally, running strengthens your joints. We all know that running is a great leg workout, but many people believe that it does harm to your joints over time. One study of almost 100,000 walkers and runners found that wasn’t true at all.
When you run, you’re hitting the pavement with more force than with walking. Your knees and ankles adapt by getting stronger – bones, muscles, tendons, and all. You actually have half the chance of dealing with knee osteoarthritis as a runner as compared to a walker, according to the study.
Which One Burns More Calories?
The basic answer is simple: running burns more calories. However, if you can convince yourself to walk more each week than you would run, you might be able to burn more calories walking.
Speed is a certainly a factor in your calorie count. What is more important in determining how many calories you burn is your weight and distance covered. For example, if you’re around 180 pounds, you should burn about 100 calories per mile. If you’re closer to 120, you’ll burn 65 calories a mile.
The American Council on Exercise has a helpful chart that indicates that 120-lb people typically burn 6.5 calories a minute, 140-lb people burn 7.6, 160-lb people burn 8.7, and 180-lb people burn 9.7.
Speed, however, does play a role. For example, if you’re 180 pounds, you’ll burn 96 calories walking one mile at a pace of 17-24 minutes per mile. However, if you walk a mile in 15 minutes, you’ll burn 102, and if you do it is just over 13 minutes, it will be 115. Keep in mind, though, that even a 15:00 mile is a very brisk walking pace.
It might not be worth it to you to go 10 minutes faster if you’re closer to 23 minutes per mile just to get 20 more calories, but it is likely definitely worth it to speed it up at least a little bit.
You’ll likely burn between 100-200 calories when you run a mile, depending on your weight and speed of course.
The American Council on Exercise found that 120-lb people tend to burn 11.4 calories per minute running, 140-lb people burn 13.2 calories per minute, 160-lb people burn 15.1 calories, and 180-lb people burn 17 calories.
But how fast you’re going will also change these numbers. It makes sense because if you run faster, you can cover more miles in the same amount of time as a slower runner.
As one example, if you run 10 mph (6 minute miles), you’ll burn around 1,000 calories if you run for an hour because you can get in 10 miles. However, if you run 6mph (10 minute miles), you’ll burn 600 calories because you can only run six miles in the same time frame.
Which One is Better for Losing Weight?
Both walking and running will help you burn calories. That translates into weight loss if your calorie output is higher than your calorie input. You theoretically can do this faster running, but only for certain conditions.
- Easy to Be Consistent
- Don’t Have to Worry About Over-training
- Fewer Urges to Reward Yourself
The great thing about walking is that it’s something that you can do every day. It’s easy to be consistent and do it on a regular basis. Building that habit can lead to burning more calories and therefore greater weight loss.
If you run three days a week and burn 100 calories each time, that’s 300 calories at the end of the week. However, if you walk every single evening and burn 70 calories each time, that’s almost 500 calories at the end of the week.
Similarly, with running, you have to always be aware of overtraining and injuries. If you’re sidelined for two weeks, that will seriously dig into how much weight you can lose. You don’t have this worry with walking. You should be able to do it every day with no injuries, because walking is much lower-impact.
Finally, while running may burn more calories, that doesn’t mean you should be rewarding yourself with food every time. After you finish a long, hard run, it’s easy to think that you deserve a treat. That ice cream or burger can completely counteract any benefit you gained, though.
By contrast, most people don’t feel the need to reward themselves after going for a walk. It’s just a typical thing, so you’re less likely to blow your calorie burn with a treat afterwards.
- Gives You an Afterburn
- Provides You With Appetite Suppression
- More Likely to Keep the Weight Off
The great thing about running is that you won’t just burn calories during your run. You’ll also experience the afterburn effect. This means that your body will still be burning calories long after you’re done working out.
One study found that vigorous exercise like running could allow you to burn more calories for 14 hours after your workout, compared to lower-intensity activities like walking.
Similarly, runners are likely to have more peptide YY in their body after working out than walkers. This is a blood hormone that suppresses appetite and makes it less likely that you’ll eat all the calories that you burned. This means that you’re more likely to sustain your weight loss.
Finally, a large study found that runners were more likely to be able to control their weight and were more likely to be fit and trim compared to walkers during the six-year study.
Which Should I Do: Walk or Run?
In the end, whether you are a walker or a runner all depends on you. If you’re someone who likes to socialize, doesn’t like pressure, is okay with gradual improvement, and likes to take time to smell the flowers, you might benefit more from walking.
But if you want to see dramatic results more quickly, if you like to push yourself, if you want to be alone for a little while, if you want a high, running is going to be the better choice.
Just think about it this way. We all know Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. Would you rather be the tortoise, or would you rather be the hare? If you’d prefer the former, then walking is your best bet. If the latter, then it’s time to get running!