Which is better: walking or running? The answer comes with many variables. Breaking down the pros and cons of both running and walking helps you decide which fitness routine best fits into your healthy lifestyle.
Pros of Walking
Walking is a low-impact form of exercise suitable for all fitness levels. The lower intensity and constant contact with the ground creates much lower impact on your joints and muscles, which can prevent injuries. People who have injuries, are recovering, or who currently do not work out regularly may prefer walking as a safer way to ease back into, or start, a fitness routine.
Even with a lower intensity level, brisk walking still provides health benefits, including lower blood pressure, cholesterol and risk for diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.
A walking fitness routine is an inexpensive way to exercise. You only need a supportive pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely. You don’t need a gym membership as long as you have a safe place to walk outdoors. Walking is also easy, and you can check items off your to-do list while you exercise, such as walking the dog or walking to the store to pick up milk. You can still do your walking routine even while you’re on vacation or away from home, since you can do it anywhere.
Cons of Walking
If you are used to a higher level of fitness, walking may not provide the kind of intense workout your body is used to, to achieve your fitness goals. The lower intensity doesn’t push your heart and lungs the way they may need, to improve in their functioning. Over time, you may need to increase the intensity of your walking routine by increasing your speed, adding an incline or incorporating some light jogging.
You typically burn fewer calories walking, as opposed to running over the same period of time. This means that you may need to walk longer to burn the same amount of calories to reach your goals. Typically, a 180 lb. man will burn approximately 90-95 calories per mile, walking at a 4 mph. pace. To find your calorie burn, Map My Walk provides this handy calculator.
Pros of Running
Running increases your heart rate rapidly, making your heart pump more efficiently, and increasing overall heart strength. This lowers your resting heart rate, which means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard throughout the day. Running also pushes your lungs to work more efficiently.
The intensity of running also strengthens other muscles throughout your body, particularly your leg muscles and your core. Your core muscles keep you stable as you quickly swing your arms and legs while you’re running.
Like walking, running burns calories, but more. That same typical 180 lb man will burn approximately 135 calories per mile. The faster he goes, the more calories per hour he burns, but there’s no significant change in the calories per mile. He simply burns them faster if he runs faster. Runners World has a nice calculator for running calculator burned.
Like walking, running is fairly inexpensive and easy to begin, but because running is higher impact, you need shoes designed to provide the right type of support for your gait. Investing in a higher-quality pair of shoes can prevent injuries, so you may spend a little more money on your shoes than you would for a walking routine.
Cons of Running
The constant intense contact with the ground may increase your risk of injury, including sprains, strains and stress fractures. In addition, if you are a beginner, running may put too much stress on your heart and lungs if not introduced properly. Another common injury is plantar fasciitus which can be very painful and difficult to recover from.
Age, Fitness Level and Health
The decision on what is best for you really comes down to three factors: age, fitness level and overall health. The younger, fitter and healthier you are, the more likely that running will provide you the best benefits. Many older people (over 50) will benefit more from walking than running simply because of the risk of injury. People less fit, should walk until they reach a higher fitness level. And people with poor health probably should start with walking and ensure they don’t cause further damage to their health.
In the long run, whether running or walking, there are health benefits to both. You simply need to start in the right place and work your way up, whether that means starting with short walks, or you are fit and able to start with a 5-mile run.