Walking and running are both excellent forms of cardiovascular exercise. Neither is necessarily “better” than the other. The choice that’s best for you depends entirely on your fitness and health goals.
If you’re looking to burn more calories or lose weight fast, running is a better choice. But walking can also offer numerous benefits for your health, including helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Walking and running are both aerobic cardiovascular, or “cardio” exercise. Some of the health benefits of cardio include:
- helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- increases stamina
- boosts immune system
- helps prevent or manage chronic conditions
- strengthens your heart
- can extend your life
Cardiovascular exercise is also good for your mental health. One study found that just 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three times a week reduces anxiety and depression. It can also improve your mood and self-esteem.
Researchers from the study also say that it’s not necessary to exercise for 30 straight minutes to experience these benefits. Walking for 10 minutes at a time three times a day resulted in the same mental health boost.
Walking can provide a lot of the same benefits of running. But running burns nearly double the number of calories as walking.
For example, for someone who’s 160 pounds, running at 5 miles per hour (mph) burns 606 calories. Walking briskly for the same amount of time at 3.5 mph burns just 314 calories.
You need to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound. If your goal is to lose weight, running is a better choice than walking.
If you’re new to exercise or aren’t able to run, walking can still help you get in shape. Walking is accessible for nearly all fitness levels. It can boost your heart and give you more energy overall.
Speed and power walking vs. running
Speed walking is walking at a brisk pace, usually 3 mph or greater. Your heart rate is elevated during speed walking. You can burn more calories this way than walking at your usual pace.
Power walking is usually considered from 3 mph to 5 mph, but some power walkers reach speeds of 7 to 10 mph. Power walking burns a similar number of calories as running. For example, power walking at 4.5 mph for one hour would burn the same as jogging at 4.5 mph for one hour.
For an effective workout, try pace training. Increase your speed for two minutes at a time, then slow back down. Speed walking doesn’t burn as many calories as running, but it can be an effective workout to elevate your heart rate, boost your mood, and improve your aerobic fitness level.
Walking with a weighted vest
Walking with a weighted vest may increase the number of calories you burn. To stay safe, wear a vest that’s no more than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to lose weight or tone your muscles, try interval walking instead. Pick up the speed for a certain amount of time before slowing down. Or alternatively, try walking with light dumbbells in each hand.
Incline walking vs. running
Incline walking involves walking uphill. It can burn a similar number of calories as running. You burn more calories at an incline than just walking on a flat surface.
Look for a hilly area or walk on an incline on the treadmill. Increase the incline by 5, 10, or 15 percent at a time to practice incline walking. If you’re new to incline walking, you can start gradually and work up to a 15 percent incline.
Running is a great way to get in shape and lose weight. But it’s a high-impact exercise. High-impact workouts can be harder on your body than low-impact exercises like walking.
Over time, running may lead to common overuse injuries such as:
- stress fractures
- shin splints
- ITB friction syndrome
In fact, runners have a much higher risk for exercise-related injury than walkers. Walkers have an approximate 1 to 5 percent injury risk, while runners have a 20 to 70 percent chance.
If you’re a runner, you can take steps to stay injury-free. Don’t increase your mileage too quickly and try to cross-train several times a week. Or, try walking instead. Walking offers many of the health benefits of running without the same risks for injury.
Both walking and running are excellent forms of cardiovascular exercise. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise each week for your health.
Walking is a smart choice if you’re new to exercise and hoping to get in shape. If you’re looking to lose weight or burn more calories, try running.
If you’re new to running, start with a program where you alternate between walking and running, such as Couch to 5K. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.