Running Vs Walking For Your Health. Is One Better Than The Other?

Every day, thousands if not millions of people decide that they are going to take their health into their own hands and improve their overall physical health. Many opt for pricey diets that become complex and difficult to maintain or to buy an expensive gym membership that often becomes a simple monthly bill that adds up over time as they don’t commit to going. 

Oftentimes, those two options are considered difficult and require lengthy pre-planning and possibly several expenses. However, other people still decide year after year to use a simple fitness option using two tools you were naturally given: your legs! Of course, I’m talking about cardiovascular exercise. 

From Jogging to sprinting, or running to walking, it is a commonly accepted fact that cardio works wonder for your body and its overall state, particularly in blocking carbohydrates and calories. However, there is always a matter of efficiency, particularly towards the “big two” of cardio, that being the topic of running versus walking.  

With the help of this guide, you will understand the differences, as well as the benefits of walking vs running, so you can better understand your needs towards achieving your overall health and fitness goals.

Starting With Your Goals

First, you need to set your goals, a process which can become a little boring and tedious at first. I remember back in grade school, at the ripe old age of 7 years old I told the teacher I didn’t need to write down my goals because I kept them in my head. 

Having and matured just that little bit since those days, I can safely say that writing down those goals (especially in a place where you can see them every day) can motivate you to commit to them that much more.

But what will your goals be? Are you training for a marathon? Are you trying to lose those bothersome 15 pounds? Are you just trying to get outside and get some benefits on the side? In any case, for every possible choice and desired target, there is a corresponding exercise, whether that’s running, or walking.

The Benefits of Walking And Running Regularly

Of course, the quickest way to make a decision for yourself is to look at all the facts, which we can now lay out for you in the most efficient way possible while explaining how and why these forms of exercise will help you. 

As you may already suspect, all the benefits of walking apply to running as well, as the two forms of exercise are inherently linked in their motions and actions that the body performs. 

However, what is different is that running is a lot more intense in its actions, and forces your body to adapt much quicker than the walking. This is also at the cost of using up more energy, which would seem obvious between the two exercises. 

Weight-Loss

Although this may be stating the obvious, any cardiovascular exercise is a clear path towards weight loss. Body fat is essentially a way for the body to “store” energy that can be used later for the body to perform other tasks.

Of course, many of us don’t expend enough of this “fuel” and the energy begins to stack up, resulting in weight gain. This is also why consuming healthy fats is important when trying to lose weight. 

Regular walking and running encourages the body to use up this fat, both during the exercise and afterward, as your metabolism begins to adapt to a greater need for energy, even during recovery from your exertion.

Helps Prevent Depression

Depression is a very real problem for many of us, and often requires a lot of effort to overcome. According to a 2014 study, regular walking and exercise are about as effective as regular antidepressant medication and treatment. 

Especially in seasons like winter where it is often easy to find yourself feeling a little more down than usual, a 15-minute run or a nice 30-minute stroll outside may just be the thing that helps turn your day around to the better.

Helps Increase Creativity

In a surprising turn, cardiovascular acts like running or walking seem to be one of the most effective ways to stimulate one’s creativity. 

According to a study done back in 2014, 81% of the people involved in the experiment found themselves scoring higher on a creativity test after walking or running on a treadmill, with a residual effect lasting for hours afterward. 

So, if you not only find yourself wanting to improve your physical health but your mental health as well, walking can be a great asset in your exercise arsenal. 

Protects Your Joints

While it may seem counterproductive, running and walking is actually quite effective in helping strengthen the joints used for the activity itself. What happens is that the increased movement of your legs stimulates blood flow to your joints and strengthens the muscles around your joint. 

Another study performed in 2019 noted a significant improvement in mobility in seniors that walked for an hour a day, compared to those who didn’t. 

Improves Your Mood And Outlook

Everyone knows that exercise changes your body, but what many people don’t know that it also shapes your mind! 

The neural pathways in your brain are shaped by exercises such as walking or running, into pathways that decrease feelings of anger and aggression. This may be for a variety of reasons, one of which is the release of pent up emotion and unspent energy that is often associated with feelings of hostility and instead of replacing it with a sense of confidence.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Running Vs Walking?

The Downsides Of Walking

While walking is an extremely productive way to boost your health and condition, there are still some risks to be aware of,  which can easily be avoided with a little preparation.

Exposure To Elements

While you may find yourself getting into a groove with walking and want to do it as often as possible, you still need to be mindful of your environment. A rainy day isn’t the friendliest for walkers, with hazards like the slippery terrain, colder temperature, and a chance for higher humidity after a rainstorm. 

Of course, you could also consider the risks posed by a scathing hot day, with hazards leading to sunstroke, sunburns, or simple exhaustion. However, all of these hazards can be negated with simple preparation and using common sense.

For example, if you wish to exercise in the rain, make sure you wear proper clothing and ensure that your shoes have proper grip on their treads. 

Conversely, if you want to walk on a hot summer day, make sure you apply sunscreen, drink the proper amount of water, and seek shade often to prevent overexposure to the sun.

Risk Of Injury

With any exercise, there is always the risk of injury, and walking is no different. Common injuries can include falls, sprained ankles, or overexerted muscles. In this instance, caution should be in your best interest. 

Stick to walking paths that are level, and devoid of obstacles to avoid tripping or spraining your ankle. When you feel tired, push yourself only as far as you really want to go, as it is tired muscles that are prone to injury, not rested ones.

It Can Be Time Consuming For It To Count

While walking is certainly a great excursion from your regular schedule, make sure to fit it into your day with a large amount of time devoted to it. Due to its slower speed, walking a certain distance to attain your goal may require quite the chunk of time from your day devoted to it. 

On a side note though, this should not be used as an excuse to not exercise, as the certain health benefits outweigh the potential risks.

The Downsides Of Running

Before talking about the risks of running, I will instead take the time to take down a running myth that has perhaps discouraged many people from starting up a running habit. 

Most of us have heard the “Running kills your knees”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many knee arthritis sufferers were found to have not have any history of running, while regular runners found their knee structures strengthened and at less of a risk of osteoporosis. With that out of the way, there are still some things to consider about the risks of running, such as injury.

Exposure To Elements

The risks of running are much the same as walking, however, this is all amplified to a larger scale due to the higher intensity of running. Terrain that would already be uncertain for a walker is that much more risky for runners. Sprains are not necessarily common for runners but are certainly not unheard of. 

To ensure that you don’t fall prey to an environmental injury, be extra prepared. Runners require special exercise clothes and footwear, while walkers can usually get away with any form of wear. This means you must be extra mindful of adverse weather and adjust your wear accordingly whilst proceeding with extra caution to hazards. 

On a side note, it is especially easy for runners to lose track of how much water you need (trust me, I’m speaking from experience on this one), so proper hydration should be one of your top priorities.

Higher Risk Of Injury

When talking about injuries sustained from running, one may use a simple analogy. Compare for instance, the engine of a Family Sedan, and the engine of a Sports Car. 

Both machines are built similarly and operate along with the same principles when performing their tasks (moving the car). However, the engine of the sports car is exposed to a greater scale of wear and tear, and would obviously require much more maintenance to keep it up to par. This is like walking and running, as runners are much more prone to injury than walkers. 

The best way to avoid injury whilst running is to avoid overexertion as much as you can. In short, when you feel your body has had enough, listen to it. Pushing yourself has great intentions, but often a zealous running overextends themselves and ends up straining a muscle from an obstacle or task that a rested runner would find easy to avoid hurting themselves with. 

One way to better prepare your body is to stretch beforehand, as this has been one of the best ways to prevent injury when running.

It Takes More Preparation

While running is much faster than walking, there is still a good amount of time that needs to be devoted to the craft, and much of that time is spent in preparation. 

You need to acquire the proper gear, stretch, run, usually wash due to sweat and grime, then let your body recover. This is a good chunk of time and must be planned around accordingly, and needs attention if you want to reap all the benefits running has to offer.

Which Is Better For Losing Weight?

I’ll again use a car analogy that’s quite simple to understand. When a car is driving (and let’s assume it’s in one gear the entire time), when does it use more gas; when it goes 50 kilometers an hour, or when it goes 100 kilometers an hour? The obvious answer is that much more energy is consumed when higher speed is demanded from the same mechanism. 

So, for people, we require more calories to be burned in order for our bodies to work harder while we are running, as opposed to when we are walking.  This also means that while a walker and a runner may cover the same distance, the runner’s heart is performing a much more difficult task while burning way more calories, therefore making it far more effective for weight loss than walking.

Which Is Better For Burning Excess Fat?

At first, if you were inferring from the previous paragraph, one could assume that running is much better than walking for burning fat, and one would be partially right. 

Running burns calories much more rapidly and can steadily chip away at a bodies fat deposits in a short(er) period of time than walking. However, your choice will all depend on your situation.

If you are overweight, or just simply haven’t exercised in a long time, then walking may be the best choice for you. Walking regularly will help you burn fat at a consistent rate while strengthening your joints to the level required for potentially running at a later date if you so choose. 

Even if you don’t want to join the local runners club and just want to enjoy a nice leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, walking will still help you attain your goals. 

At the end of the day, its all about your personal needs and preferences, and finding what you are capable of first. You can then gradually increase your distance, or even switch from walking to running as you adapt.

Is Powerwalking Better Than Running?

Powerwalking is definitely better than walking at burning energy due to the increased speed, which in turn causes your muscles to work harder and use more calories. However, speed isn’t what separates walking from running. Rather, it is the motion of the act that contributes to burning calories.

As I alluded to before, running and walking are similar cardiovascular acts. However, where the similarity ends is the greater use and range of motion required for running. 

Your legs require a greater push to actually run, bringing your thighs further up than it would in the act of walking, kind of like a spring. Your abdominals also twist further as your legs push up from the ground, engaging those muscles as you run. 

In short, running is better than walking at engaging more of your muscles. This means, while power walking certainly burns more calories than walking, it fails to meet the calorie-burning effects of running. 

However, do not let this discourage you from power walking, as it also has its specific advantages. Like walking, it will put you at less risk for injury and does not require as much preparation as running. 

If you are overweight or just getting back into working out and wanting to run in the future, power walking is certainly a nice intermediate to help you make another progressive step between the two exercises.

Running Outside vs Running On A Treadmill

So, let’s assume you decided to give running a shot, and now you want to decide how to get the job done. Do you want to run around the block, or do you want to hit up the local gym and hop on the treadmill?

Let’s look into the two methods of running, and what they could mean for you.

Running On A Treadmill

The treadmill method certainly has its fair share of advantages. They are easily accessible with a gym membership, simple to use, and can be tailored to the needs of the runner. This may be suitable for people who live in cities and don’t have a lot of accessible outside space. 

Even if you do have outside space, you may want to avoid inclement weather by exercising inside, avoiding things like intense heat or insect life…  

With a treadmill, you run at a constant set pace that almost seems to “encourage” you to keep up a certain speed and effort whilst within a comfortable environment. The settings can be set for uphill travel as well, giving more exercise to your thigh muscles while your body continues its cardiovascular work. 

Another helpful feature that many people wouldn’t think of is the cooldown button included on most treadmills, which lets you slowly phase from your intense running speed back into a resting state, which is helpful for preventing overextension of muscles. 

Running Outside

On the other hand, we have outdoors running. Personally, I find running outdoors to be a much more rewarding experience than running on a treadmill, a feeling that requires some explanation. 

A problem I often hear from gym-goers is that the treadmill is “too boring”, as users find themselves without stimulation for the time they are running (music through your headphones can only go so far). 

Running outside offers a variety of different scenarios and environments for you to run to. A run in the country, or even in the hustle and bustle of downtown, is always interesting and helps you appreciate the experience that much more. 

Outdoor running is also a testament to your power of will, as your pace is set by you alone and not by a machine, leaving you to be the architect of your own fitness strategy.

Ultimately, it is all up to the runner which environment and method they prefer whilst running. Neither choice is necessarily better than the other, and neither is necessarily worse. As I said before, is all a matter of choice, and what you want out of your experience.

How Often Should I Walk Or Run?

First, before you set a schedule for yourself when it comes to running or walking, you need to realize your own limits and ability. Here are a few questions to ask yourself first:

  • When was the last time you walked or run?
  • How would you rate your being “in shape”?
  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions that could seriously hinder your journey?
  • How often can you make yourself free?

Once you’ve considered your situation you can prepare your schedule. You may be able to run or walk almost every day, considering your physical condition, but always be sure to give your body enough rest. 

You should devote one day of the week completely to resting up and recovering from your exercise, as according to experts this facilities recovery in the body. When you do exercise, make sure it hits at least the 30-minute marks, as that is the commonly held time for exercise to benefit your body,

Remember, at the end of the day, its all about your personal fitness goals and where what you want to achieve, whether its weight loss or improving your overall health. 

Answering The Question: Is Running or Walking Better?

So, as you may have guessed, there is no definite answer to this question. Both running and walking are amazing ways to help get yourself into shape, and reach the goals you have set for yourself. 

Running may be the most intense option and can help you target weight-loss more effectively than walking since you burn more calories. However, you should never count walking out of the picture, as even a 15-minute walk on your break from work can do wonders for your health and well being.

Only you can truly decide what’s best for yourself.