Walking or Running: Which Is Better Exercise?

We break down the benefits of both, so you can decide which is right for you.

July 24, 2020
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Photo by: boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

Walking and running are two easy modes of physical activity that don't require equipment or a gym membership. Grab your sneakers, map out a route (or hop in the treadmill) and you’re on your way. But is walking up a sweat as good as running? Both have their benefits. Read on to find out which is best to reach your fitness goals.

Walking vs. Running

How to do these activities likely requires little explanation, but to make the very simplest comparison: running is faster, allowing you to cover more distance in less time. Running allows for a higher intensity workout and more dramatic increases in heart rate — the higher your heart rate, the greater number of calories burned. Walking is lower-impact and may be a more safe and sustainable option if you suffer from orthopedic issues like back or knee pain; plus, a longer-timed walk can achieve the same net calorie burn as running for less time.

Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

If weight loss is your goal, both running and walking can get you there. Considering the calorie burn factor mentioned above, longer duration walking is required to burn the same number of calories per session as running for a shorter period. On the brighter side, lower intensity exercise relies more heavily on fat for fuel so as long as you are exerting yourself and timing it correctly, fat loss can be achieved. Interval running is also a good method for this. Short bursts of higher intensity movements (aka intervals) allow you to burn more calories in that exercise session.

Ways to Kick Up Walking

Prefer a stroll to a run? There are several ways to increase the intensity of a walking workout.

  • Add intervals of faster walking throughout your exercise duration.
  • Add stairs, hills or inclines to your workout — the activity remains lower impact, but it ramps up the exertion.
  • Add body weight exercises. Push up or sit ups at any point of your workout can provide small bursts of increased hear rate, adding to your total calorie expenditure.

Bottom Line

Just MOVE, walking and running are both ways to help you get in shape or stay in shape — just do it safely!

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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