Both walking and running come under the cardio category of exercises.
Walking is a great way to exercise, especially if you have weak joints or any lower body pain. The number of calories you can burn per walk depends on the speed at which you’re walking. Brisk walking is an ideal form of moderate exercise as it increases heart rate, blood circulation and also helps burn fat (marginally) with minimal physical strain.
Running is a more rigorous form of exercise, it can rapidly increase heart rate and burn fat better as compared to walking. It helps burn calories a lot faster but exerts more strain on your muscles and joints as compared to walking. If you have a basic level of fitness and experience no pain or uneasiness while or after running then it’s a good choice.
Walking is good enough.
Running expends roughly twice the amount of energy as walking (for the same distance or time). So, running for half an hour is roughly equivalent to walking for an hour. Be it walking or running, spending equal amounts of energy doing either has shown to collectively reduce the risks of Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia, Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Heart Disease by a similar degree.
Brisk walking may even be better than slow running or jogging. There is a transition speed at which it becomes easier to run than to walk. Walking at a speed greater than this transition speed burns more calories. Lets say your regular pace of walking is 4 km/hr and transition speed is 5.5 km/hr. In this case, walking at 6 km/hr would be better than running at the same pace (6 km/hr).
Do run, if you can.
If you are up to it, running can offer many additional benefits. Running has been found to be more effective in promoting weight loss than walking. Running has also been associated with decreasing the risk for incident benign prostate hyperplasia by 33%, gallbladder disease by 52%, gout by 45%, diverticular disease by 48%, macular degeneration by 54%, and glaucoma by 43%.
Running has also shown to significantly reduce mortality in breast cancer survivors as compared to walking.
One study aimed to test whether equivalent changes in moderate (walking) and vigorous exercise (running) produce equivalent weight loss under free-living, non-experimental conditions over a span of 5 years. It found that while the change in BMI was significantly associated with both running and walking, the change was significantly greater for running than walking.
Don’t overdo it.
Pushing your body against gravity is a lot of work. Also, there is the impact of your feet hitting the ground which your muscles and joints are expected to absorb. If your lower body is not sufficiently strong, running can increase the risk of injury.
Excessive running (Over Training Syndrome), especially seen in marathon runners, can lead to altered focus of immune function, making the body more prone to infections. OTS also increases cortisol levels, a hormone generated due to any physical or mental stress. High cortisol levels have been linked with obesity and heart disease risk.
So, what’s better – walking or running?
Ideally, it should be a mix of both. But if you have to pick one, brisk walking is your best bet – it will offer you pretty much all the benefits with lowest amount of risk.
1. Williams, Paul T., and Paul D. Thompson. “Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction.” Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology 33.5 (2013): 1085-1091.
2. National Runners’ and Walker’s Health Studies. Berkeley Lab. US Department of Energy.
3. Williams, Paul T. “Significantly greater reduction in breast cancer mortality from post‐diagnosis running than walking.” International Journal of Cancer 135.5 (2014): 1195-1202.
4. Williams, Paul T. “Greater weight loss from running than walking during 6.2-yr prospective follow-up.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 45.4 (2013): 706.
5. Smith, Lucille Lakier. “Overtraining, excessive exercise, and altered immunity.” Sports Medicine (2003): 347-364.