Walking vs. Running: Does it Matter?

Autumn has arrived, bringing those cool, colorful days that make you want to get outside and breathe in the crisp, new air. Maybe you’re even inspired by the new season to start a new fitness routine! You want to keep it simple, but you’re not sure where to start. Well…walking and running are two of the most versatile and accessible activities out there, but which is better? And does it matter? Let’s consider the benefits of each.

Walking vs Running: Which Is Better?

  • Running typically burns more calories than walking
  • Walking is lower impact than running
  • Most people can walk for longer periods of time than they can run
  • Both walking and running can be done almost anywhere

Benefits of cardiovascular exercise

Both walking and running are complete forms of cardiovascular activity, which can have enormous physical and mental benefits. Cardiovascular activity increases stamina, boosts your immune system, strengthens your heart and muscles, and can even improve your mood. One study found that just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise three times a week can reduce anxiety and depression. There are few simpler ways to give both your body and your mind the boost they need!

Walking or running? How to choose?

Weight loss certainly isn’t the only reason to adopt healthy habits and doesn’t need to be your goal. But, for many people, it can be a motivating factor to start a fitness program and can be seen as a benefit.

Whether you have weight loss on your mind, or simply want to be happier and healthier, here are some facts to consider:

  • Calories: Running burns nearly double the number of calories as walking based on time spent exercising. Running also burns about 30 percent more calories per mile. Power walking — an activity where you walk at a brisk pace with an elevated heart rate — is similar to running in terms of calorie burn per mile.
  • Impact: As a lower-impact exercise, walking causes less fatigue. If you’re worried a run will leave you useless for the rest of the day, walking is a great alternative. Walking is still a weight-bearing exercise that ultimately provides long-term health benefits, such as the prevention of bone loss.
  • Duration: Walking is sustainable for longer durations than running. You may tire out and stop after just a few minutes of running, but find you can walk comfortably for 30 to 45 minutes. The best workout is the one you can sustain.
  • Competition: Some people have races on their minds when they start a new fitness program. Whether it’s a 5K fun run or a marathon PR, your activity level will depend heavily on your goals. Plenty of people can and do walk entire races. This is fine, but many beginners have aspirations toward a faster time. Either way, you should start with walking to get into shape. As you become more conditioned, gradually increase your speed. To build up to running, try pace training. Run or walk at an increased speed for two minutes, and then slow down for two minutes. Increase your speed for another two minutes, and repeat this cycle for as long as you feel comfortable!

Benefits versus risks of running 

“Running will ruin your knees.” We hear this so often when talking to friends about our aspirations to run a 5K. This is not necessarily true, but it is important to start slowly and take precautions with any new fitness routine. Running is a great way to fast-track fitness, but it’s also a high-impact exercise. High-impact workouts can be hard on your body, leading to overuse injuries.

According to some studies, walkers have a 1 to 5 percent injury risk, while runners may have a 20 to 70 percent chance of overuse injury at some point in their lives. Overuse injuries from running can be avoided by following science-proven fitness plans — many of which can be found online. Those who don’t want to follow a set routine may feel safer walking.

Running, however, can be greatly beneficial for overall health. A 15-year study with over 50,000 participants found that running at least five to ten minutes per day, even at lower speeds, reduces heart disease risk up to 45 percent. The study by the American Heart Association found that walking was just as beneficial as running for lowering the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

So, to make things clear: although walkers have a lower injury risk, running is not bad for your knees as long as you listen to your body! Studies have actually found strong evidence linking higher impact activities with stronger knee tissue and healthier knees. The truth is, as long as you don’t overdo it, prioritize recovery, and don’t run when something is hurting, you’ll come out stronger with fewer aches and pains than people who don’t regularly walk and run. 

How to get started running or walking 

Starting new routines can be daunting, but it doesn’t take much to prepare for walking or running: A good pair of shoes, comfortable workout clothing, and hydration! Look for high-quality synthetic materials in your clothing, and find a running belt or backpack that allows you to bring everything you need for your desired activity. 

So what will it be — walking or running? In the end, it’s entirely up to you! Experts agree that the most beneficial workout for you is the one you’re most likely to do, so choose the activity you’re most excited about. Aim for three to four days of exercise per week at 30 minutes per day. Make a dedicated plan to keep you motivated and excited. Keep your workouts interesting by changing up your routes. And maybe find a friend to join. Running or walking with a buddy keeps you accountable and increases safety. A friend can also help challenge you. 

Finally, when you are ready, signing up for races or other competitions provides extra motivation. Walking or running, few things match the satisfaction of striding into the finish of a goal race and receiving a well-deserved medal!

Whether you’re hitting the path for a brisk walk or an adventurous run, Fitletic’s fitness gear and accessories adapt well to any workout routine. A wide range of sizes and styles help eliminate distractions so new and experienced athletes can focus on their goals. Check out Fitletic’s assortment of hydration belts and accessories

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