Is Walking Better Than Running?

Both running and walking come with many health benefits and they are overall equally good. But they do have particular advantages and disadvantages. Walking may be better for those who have joint problems but running burns more calories and builds endurance.

Once humans evolved enough to stand up, walking was the first way to get around, and running followed close behind. We have a very long history with these forms of movement, and even if nowadays we mostly consider them a sport, for a very long time, they were a normal part of life.

While the industrial revolution has pushed us to the actual stage, in which we have become sedentary, as species we are adapted to walking and running. Being forced to stay still for too long is not in our nature and it has a deep impact on our overall health.

Most people don’t believe that they are sedentary but evidence suggests that in the United States, 80% of adults do not exercise enough, meaning that they are exposed to risks such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High Blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Stroke

One of the many problems with a sedentary lifestyle is … the fact that is a lifestyle. Only 300 years ago, in order to go to work, a person had to walk. Most jobs didn’t imply sitting down and people didn’t even think about walking. They just did it all the time, and when they were in a hurry, instead of hailing a cab, they ran.

In a split second (in evolution terms), we had to adapt to not walking and not running. But evolution doesn’t happen overnight, so that is why there are so many health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

In this article, we will look at the differences between running and walking, so that you can decide which option is better for you, to stop the vicious circle of a sedentary life.

Reasons why walking is good for you

The average age when a person starts to walk is one. And you probably noticed that when children learn to walk, they want to do it all the time.

Walking is the one form of activity that we instinctively know how to do correctly and it has numerous benefits that aren’t limited only to our health.

You will read many articles about how walking is a form of exercise, but the truth is that it shouldn’t be viewed like that. Walking is a way to get around. It has always been that way and it kept us healthy.

What are the benefits of walking? Let’s take a look.

  1. The obvious – taking you from point A to point B (with or without a view)
  2. Maintaining or improving muscular tone
  3. Helps to maintain or lose weight
  4. Improves coordination and balance. Walking outside means that you will have to pay attention to your environment and that you will need to avoid obstacles.
  5. Prevents the health problems that we discussed earlier
  6. It helps you stay grounded in the reality around you. By walking you may get to see people, interact with them and notice the changes that are happening in your community. This has a great influence on your mood.
  7. Improves bone and joint health.

Walking should be a natural part of everyday life, but if you must plan for it make sure that you do. Now let’s look at running for a bit and learn what it can do for you.

Reasons why running is good for you

As for walking, the benefits of running go beyond the physical. Running influences how you think and how you feel. The psychological benefits might even outweigh the physical ones.

What are the benefits of running? We probably can’t incorporate all of this in this article, but let’s look at a few of them.

  1. It is a free form of cardio exercise that you can do anywhere;
  2. It improves muscle tone in your entire body. Even the core has its share of training;
  3. According to many studies (you can read one here), running improves mood, depression, and anxiety. Even as little as 30 minutes has shown positive results;
  4. It builds psychological endurance. The fact that you will push your physical limits by running when you feel that you can’t, will transform both your mind and your body into a better version of you.
  5. It prevents and fights obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that we’ve already covered;
  6. Self-esteem will be boosted too;
  7. Improves sleep quality, as you can see here.

Both running and walking seem like great options, right? There are a few details that set them apart, and we are going to put those under a microscope.

Reasons why walking might be better than running

Walking is easier

We evolved to run in order to: run from predators, run to a safe place in bad weather, run out of hunger in order to catch prey. None of these were pleasant.

In order to run, we need to put in the effort, have a higher heart rate, work more muscles… all in all, it can be harder than walking.

Walking is basic, and it doesn’t require much effort or special equipment.

Walking puts less pressure on joints

Those who have knee and joint problems will find walking less painful as it forces the joints to absorb the same forces as when running.

It is easier to walk with friends

You have more chances to convince your friends or family to go for a walk than to go for a run.

It is more accessible in urban areas

Depending on where you live, it might be easier to walk than run. As cities are crowded, it is definitely a challenge to run on the sidewalk, in the center of New York. But walking is safe and achievable.

Walking can be done in poor health too

A walk in the park can help with recovering from pneumonia or the flu. Running in these circumstances would be a challenge that no doctor would recommend.

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Reasons why running might be better than walking

The flight mechanism (Part of the fight and flight mechanism)

Running is not just a form of walking fast. Once we start running, mechanisms are put in motion and the release of hormones will force you to use the energy you didn’t know you had.

As we just talked about, running evolved as a defense mechanism and one of its perks is the fact that it allows you to burn through glucose and glycogen much faster than when you are walking.

Running pushes all your muscles

After a run, you may find that even your abdomen has had a workout.

Running releases happy hormones

After a run, you will experience what is known as “the runner’s high”, a cocktail of endorphins that will make you feel relaxed.

Running lowers blood pressure

Almost immediately after a run, the blood pressure is stabilized to a healthy level. This is a direct result of the hormones that we just discussed.

Better sleep

There is nothing like a run to help you sleep better. Unless it’s a run on the beach, but we aren’t all lucky enough to live by the sea.

Is walking better than running for fat loss (belly fat loss)?

Both walking and running are excellent for losing belly fat. It just happens that one of them can work faster than the other.

Belly fat was shown to be a risk for many health problems, but the most worrisome is the link with higher heart disease risk.

The excessive calories that we consume will turn to fat that will be deposited. Nature has played a joke on us and decided to place that fat on our belly. In order to lose it, we need to burn calories.

Walking burns fewer calories than running, so in order to burn through the belly fat, you would need to walk for longer than you would need to run.

Due to the fact that after a run you will continue to burn calories, running is the better option and research seems to favor running.

Is walking or running better for your heart?

The simplified answer to this question is that both walking and running are good for your heart.

The in-depth to this question is a bit more complicated because it depends on each individual.

In order to maintain a healthy heart, you need to have a balanced weight, so from this perspective, running might be better because it will help you to burn more calories.

However, if the person who needs to exercise is not in good health, walking can be the solution for them, as it puts less pressure on the heart, cardiovascular system, and joints.

Key differences between walking vs. running the same distance

The main differences between walking and running refer to energy expenditure, heart rate, and effect of impact.

While running burns more calories, elevates the heart rate, and improves breathing, it can also be straining and feel bad at first. You will need more motivation to run as it is perceived as something unpleasant during the first few workouts.

Walking for the same distance will take longer, burn fewer calories and not offer as much as a workout as running. But it will keep you moving for longer, without putting as much pressure on your joints, lungs, or heart.

Running vs. walking calories

The number of calories burned during any form of exercise depends on the features of the individual (height and weight).

On average, running burns almost twice as many calories as walking, but speed is an important factor too as the faster you are, the more calories you will burn.

So, while an individual would burn 620 calories when running, they would burn 300 while walking for the same distance. But if the run was of high intensity, they will continue to burn some calories while at rest.

Key differences between walking a 5K and running a 5K

While the main differences in heart rate and impact were already discussed, there is another factor that is very important: mental endurance.

In order to run a 5k (3.1 miles), you will need to push yourself, and that requires training and perseverance.

Walking for 5 km would definitely be easier, but it will not burn as many calories, work your muscles the same way and it will definitely not give you an after-burn (when you burn calories while resting).

Looking for a couch to 5K training plan? Check out my free 8-week 5K training program.

Slow jogging vs. fast walking, which is better, or are they the same?

Slow jogging is better than a fast walk. In all fairness, it might even be more comfortable as pushing for a fast walk, will stretch your muscles in a painful way.

In order to obtain similar results between walking and jogging, you should maintain a 5 miles per hour speed. That is super fast walking but slow jogging.

As we jog slower or walk faster we reach a level where the pace of the slowest runners meets the pace of the fastest walkers. What pace is this? It’s somewhere around the 13:00 minutes/mile pace.

Is a brisk walk as good as a run?

Running seems to win every time as walking briskly usually means that you will have an average speed of fewer than 3.5 miles per hour.

However, if the brisk walk is twice as long as the run, it could offer similar results.

Is it better to run for 30 minutes or walk for an hour?

Running for 30 minutes saves you time, burns roughly the same amount of calories as walking for an hour, and has the advantage of continuing to burn calories even after you stopped.

Can you lose weight by walking 30 minutes a day?

Any type of exercise will help you lose weight. Walking for 30 minutes a day will burn an average of 150-200 calories and combined with a calorie restriction diet, it could help you achieve your weight-loss target.

How many miles is a 30-minute walk?

For the average person who walks with an average speed, a 30-minute walk will translate into 1.75 miles.

How long does it take to walk 1 mile?

How many steps are in a 30-minute walk?

A 30-minute walk has an average of 3600 steps.

Is walking every day enough exercise?

In order for walking every day to be enough exercise, you should have an active lifestyle. This can translate into simple things like taking the stairs, walking to work, and walking your dog.

Depending on your diet and health, you may need to walk more or incorporate a run into your routine.

Walking and running have been around since forever and we should be able to look at them as something normal that is a big part of our life because the rewards will surely follow.

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261

https://medlineplus.gov/healthrisksofaninactivelifestyle.html

https://sportsecyclopedia.com/tank/the-history-of-running-as-a-sport-and-recreation/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22446673/

Coach Scott is a published author, RRCA certified running coach (Level 2), and an NASM CPT (Certified Personal Trainer). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

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Is Walking Better Than Running?
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