Getting Your Cardio: The Benefits of Running vs. Walking

If you’re looking for a way to get healthier, working out has probably crossed your mind. After all, regular exercise is known to help people lose weight, improve heart health, and just get in a better mood. Even though chances are good you know all of this already, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. And in many cases, another hard part is not knowing what kind of working out will be the most beneficial for you. That’s where the conversation on the benefits of running vs. walking comes in. Which is better for you? Let’s take a look.

Get a primer on figuring out the right type of exercise for your body when you read: Top Strategies for Finding the Best Workout for You

The Benefits of Running vs. Walking When It Comes to Weight Loss

If your main goal of working out is to lose weight, you’re going to want to focus on the calories you can burn with each exercise. Running demands more energy from your body than walking, so it’s no surprise that you can burn about 2.5 times the calories when you run vs. when you walk. For example, a person who weighs 160 pounds can burn around 150 calories in a half hour of walking briskly. The same person can burn a little over 350 calories by doubling the pace and running for a half hour. So if you’re going for a calorie deficit through exercise in order to lose weight, running is the winner here.

Additionally, running may even help you manage your appetite better. Studies have shown that runners often eat less than walkers do after working out. This is likely because running can increase the amount of the peptide YY in the body, a hormone that can suppress the appetite. Considering that eating fewer calories is a major part of weight loss, running may be your best bet if you’re focusing on the benefits of running vs. walking to lose weight.

Running vs. Walking When You’re Trying to Improve Heart Health

If you want to pick a workout that will improve your cardiovascular health, you can’t go wrong with either running or walking. Both will improve your heart health. However, one study found that a group of runners had a 4.5 percent lower chance of cardiovascular disease than people who are inactive. This sounds like another good reason to take up running.

But before you head out the door to jog, note that the same study found that once the walkers walked long enough to burn the same number of calories as the runners, their risk of cardiovascular disease went down to 9 percent lower than inactive people. So if you’re interested in the benefits of running vs. walking for heart health, a brisk walk around your neighborhood will get you on the right track to reducing your odds of cardiovascular disease.

How Running vs. Walking Has an Impact on Your Body

Running tends to be harder on the body, so you’re right to be concerned about how this workout might affect your overall health. This is especially the case if you’re older or just out of shape. After all, running is hard on the joints, particularly if you’re carrying some extra weight. So injuries occur more to runners than walkers, making this a slightly more dangerous workout to try if your goal is to remain injury-free.

If you’re worried about how exercise might hurt your health, read this: Preventing the Negative Effects of Exercise

In addition, one study done by the National Institutes of Health discovered that vigorous exercise might increase the amount of inflammatory proteins in the body, meaning you’re more likely to get sick. And when you do get sick, you might end up feeling worse than you would if you didn’t work out vigorously. So this suggests that if you’re wondering about the benefits of running vs. walking when it comes to your overall health, you might want to stick to walking. Granted, if you really want to try running, you can still do it, but you need to focus on doing it safely. This means working up to it gradually, such as by increasing the speed of your walks every few days until you feel comfortable breaking into a run.

Which One Is Best?

As you can see from this breakdown of the benefits of running vs. walking, the best one for you depends on your specific health goals. If you mainly want to lose weight, running may help you do it faster, but honestly, you’ll also lose weight when you walk regularly and stick to a healthy diet. If you’re concerned about heart health, walking may be right for you—although, again, both are very good for lowering your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. And if you want to stay free of injuries, start walking. You can always progress into a run once you’ve mastered the brisk walk!

I’ve been a runner all my life, but I also incorporated walking into my workout routine over the course of the last ten or fifteen years. My knees appreciate the break from running, and I get pretty much the same benefits from a vigorous walk as I did from a run. What I try to do the most of these days is intervals. I run at top speed for a block, then I walk for a block, then I’m back to running at top speed. That gets my heart rate up, gets a nice mix of walking and running, and makes me feel great.

What about you? Are you a runner? Any tips for staying healthy while getting your running in? Or do you prefer walking? If so, why? Or, are you like me, and mix it up with a healthy mixture of running and walking? I’d love to hear your secrets on staying fit and healthy, and how you feel about the benefits of running vs. walking.

Looking for additional ways to work out and treat your body to tons of health benefits? Check out: 10 Bone-Strengthening Exercises You Should Definitely Be Doing

More sources on this topic:
Hate Running? Then You’re Going To Love This Compelling Case for Trading Jogging for Walking
Is Walking as Good a Workout as Running?

The original version of this article was first published on FitFormula.