Running is not just fast walking. These are actually two completely different movements. When we walk, there is always some part of us on the ground. With running, there are points that we are actually airborne. For professional runners, this is around 45% of the time.
Walking seems to be the newest health trend at the moment in the USA. With the appearance of walking areas in towns and walking communities, it’s the new thing to do to keep your body healthy. And so it should be. There are some amazing health benefits of walking, but does that mean running is a thing of the past? Let’s take a look at the difference benefits you get from walking vs running.
Walking vs Running for Weight Loss
Ah, the favourite reason for us to do anything physical. Losing weight is an issue that seems to have always been around. All my life I remember various family members being on diets and counting calories. While there are many more benefits to both running and walking, let’s get this one out of the way first.
Calories Burned Walking vs Running
It is entirely possible to burn the same amount of calories walking as running. You simply have to walk for longer. On average, if you walked the same distance as you ran, you would burn 2.5 times more calories running than walking. This obviously varies depending on how fast you walk or run and if there are inclines or stairs etc. on your route, but it works as a rough estimate. So to burn more calories as a walker, you need to spend more time walking.
Burning calories: Running - 1; Walking - 0
Running may also have more post-exercise benefits to weight loss than walking. After running, tests showed that the level of appetite controlling hormones such as ghrelin, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide were elevated in the blood. This did not occur in people who had walked for the same amount of time. When these 2 groups of people were then offered a buffet type meal, those who had run for 60 minutes ate significantly less calories than those who had walked. Although the walkers still ate less than the control group, who had rested for 60 minutes. This suggests that running helps to alter appetite-inducing hormones.
Appetite regulation: Running - 1; Walking - 0
Although it’s looking pretty good for running so far, walking does have a trick up its sleeve. Walking is able to burn more body fat than running, simply because of the different energy requirements it has. Walking is an endurance activity and will burn fat reserves as energy so that your body can maintain the action for an extended period of time. This is because fat burns more slowly and steadily as an energy source. Running, on the other hand, requires a lot of energy to do and the best way to get this is to burn glucose, which comes from carbohydrates and sugar in your diet. This is a much faster burning source of fuel. So while running burns more calories, walking burns more fat.
Fat burning: Running - 0; Walking - 1
Running is a much more intense form of exercise than walking. This means that there’s more chance of getting hurt. Running-induced injuries can be as minor as blisters from the wrong shoes. Others can be more long term, like repeated impact on the knee joints, and there’s all the in-betweens of pulled muscles and twisted ankles. This is much less likely with walking as we are moving more slowly. We don’t have to warm up and stretch in the same way if we walk to the shop.
When you run, you also hit the ground with more force than if you’re walking. This puts a lot more strain on your joints. In fact, when you run, you hit the ground with a force of 2.5 times your body weight. This means that on average, runners absorb around 100 tonnes of impact force per mile! Suddenly adding this stress to your body can result in injury, so if you’ve decided to take up running, don’t just jump right in. Start with shorter distances to give your body time to adjust and to rest and recover from the exercise. Make sure you keep your leg muscles strong to help absorb the impact and and protect your joints.
Avoiding injury: Running- 0; Walking - 1
General Health Benefits
When it comes to all of the other health benefits of exercising, such as improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diabetes, better sleep, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, there really isn’t much difference between walking and running. If you’re just starting out exercising or you’re recovering from an injury, then walking is a good, safe place to start before increasing the intensity as you get fitter.
The sad truth is that most people exercise purely to lose weight rather than to be healthier and fitter. If this is your goal and you want to get there quicker, or you have the personality type that needs to see results fast to stay motivated, then running is for you.
That’s not to say that running isn’t a great form of exercise. It’s invigorating, it’s a great aerobic workout and it keeps you fit and healthy. If you can’t fit a run into your day, walking a little extra will still be better than doing nothing. Especially if you’re health focused instead of weight focused.
Is one better for you than the other? The answer is that it depends on how you have decided to define “better for you” and what your fitness goals are. In my opinion, there’s not a huge difference between them other than the calories burned per time exercised. If you have the time for a long walk and you enjoy that more, do that. If you want a quicker workout with similar results then go for a run.