Walking vs. Running: Which Is Better for My Health?
Medically Reviewed by Kelsey Powell, MS, Medical Sciences
Walking and running are both great forms of aerobic exercise — and they both come with great health benefits. Regularly walking or running can strengthen your bones, heart and lungs and help you stay at a healthy weight. But there are some differences between them. So you may be wondering: Is walking vs. running better for you?
Ultimately, it really depends on your health goals and on which activity you enjoy more. Read on to learn the health benefits of each activity to help you decide which is best for your exercise routine.
What Are the Benefits of Walking?
Walking is a safe, low-impact exercise that’s easy to do. During a low-impact exercise, you always have at least one foot on the ground to support your weight. That makes walking a good choice if:
- You’re recovering from a surgery or injury
- You have hip, knee or other joint pain
If you’re just getting started with exercise, walking is a great way to start. Try taking a walk around your block, or walking at the mall when the weather is bad. You can also park farther away from stores or your office to get more steps in.
Walking can be a light-to-moderate intensity exercise, depending on your pace. Experts recommend that everyone get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. To make walking a moderate-intensity exercise, try walking faster until your breathing and heart rate increase. If you’re breathing harder but you can still talk pretty easily, that’s moderate intensity.
What Are the Benefits of Running?
Running is a vigorous-intensity exercise, so your breathing and heart rate will increase more than when you’re walking. By choosing a vigorous-intensity activity, experts say you can get the same health benefits in half the time — so running for an hour and 15 minutes a week would match up to walking for two and a half hours a week. That makes running a good option if you’re short on time!
Running is also a high-impact activity, so it can be harder on your joints and feet. But high-impact activities can also help keep your bones strong. If you have joint pain when you run, talk with a doctor.
And if running is beyond your current fitness level, you can always start with walking and work up to a light jog. Over time, start to jog a bit longer and faster. You can gradually increase your pace as your fitness improves!
Choose Walking vs. Running Based on Your Goals
Both walking and running offer many health benefits. Over time, they can both lower your risk of many health problems, including heart disease and certain cancers. Being active can also help you feel better right away by boosting your mood and energy levels.
So choosing walking vs. running depends on what you enjoy and what your goals are. If you’re looking to burn more calories and get more intense exercise in a shorter amount of time, running might be right for you. If you’re looking for an exercise that’s more gentle on your joints and you have more time to spend on activity, walking might be a better fit.
Remember, the best form of exercise is the one you enjoy doing, and that you can commit to doing regularly. So find a physical activity that works for you, and get moving!