Walking VS Running: Which Is Better?

By:    Published: September 20, 2012

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The debate between runners and walkers stretches back a long time, and for good reason. Both are great activities for your health, and those who engage in those activities tend to think that their exercise is better. In this article, we’ll look at the facts about walking versus running from several angles to reveal which is better.

Comparing Health Benefits

A common myth is that walking and running burn the same number of calories per mile. This stems from the fact that running burns calories faster than walking. This makes sense since your body is working harder to move faster when you run. However, some people have heard that if they walk two miles, it burns the same amount of calories as running two miles. The idea has some truth to it, but the math is not that simple.

[Looking for more ways to burn calories other than walking or running? Check out 10 Quick Ways To Burn Calories While Having Fun]

According to Active.com, running for 20 minutes burns about the same number of calories as walking for 50 minutes. So it’s true that going slower for a longer period can get the same results as far as burning calories. However, these numbers largely depend on the rate at which you run or walk. Walking at a rate of 2 miles per hour (mph) burns fewer calories than walking at a rate of 3 mph. The same principle applies if you run at 4 mph or 5 mph. The best way to gauge how fast you’re burning calories is to measure your heart rate. The main thing to take away from this is that both walking and running burn calories effectively, but the faster you go, the faster they’ll burn.

However, the amount of calories burned is just one factor in weighing running against walking. From a cardiovascular perspective, running is the clear winner. You have to use more oxygen to run and your body works harder while you do it. You get your heart rate up higher, which helps keep your heart healthy. While walking does both of these things to some extent, it doesn’t match running when it comes to cardiovascular fitness.

Comparing Physical Risks And Benefits

Because you are pushing your body harder with running, this exercise generally results in better muscle strengthening than walking. Running engages numerous muscles groups – including the glutes, legs, abdominals, arms, chest, back and shoulders – at a level that exceeds that of walking. When it comes to getting toned up, running will be better for you than walking.

On the other hand, one major physical benefit that walking holds over running is the fact that it is a low-impact exercise. This makes walkers less prone to injury and it can be a much more suitable activity for seniors and those suffering from arthritis. It’s also easier to manage for those who would have trouble getting their heart rate up too high or breathing too hard.

[Learn more about low-impact exercises in Low Impact Aerobics: Easy Workouts For Anyone]

In addition, walking is a great way for those who have a mostly inactive lifestyle to get started with working out. You can easily start with a leisurely stroll and work up to a brisk walk. Starting off by running would be more strenuous for someone who hasn’t been exercising.

Deciding Which Is Better For You

Walking and running both have numerous health benefits, but running improves your overall fitness to a greater extent. Most young, healthy people should consider running rather than walking if they want to get in and stay in shape.

However, this doesn’t mean that running is the best activity for everyone. Some people will benefit more from walking due to their personal circumstances. Running may put some at a higher risk for injury or may put excessive pressure on their joints. In cases like these, walking is the healthier exercise of choice that will provide more benefits for the individual.

[Related – 4 Ways To Prevent Common Running Injuries]

An exception to these rules is race walking. Many studies have found that race walking can actually be more difficult than running because the body wants to instinctively run or jog when moving at such a fast pace. This activity engages numerous muscles throughout the body at a level that matches or exceeds that of running.

Bottom Line

In this article, we’ve revealed that walking and running are both effective at burning calories, but running gets the job done faster. Running is better for your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, but it can also lead to more injuries. Meanwhile, walking is low-impact and can be an easy way to start getting in shape if you’re mostly inactive. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about which of these two popular exercises is best for your health. Also, be sure to start off slowly if you are trying either of these activities after not exercising for a significant period of time.

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