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Walking vs. Running: Which One Is Best?

Mar 22, 2011
Adding aerobic exercise to your routine is an excellent way to build your cardiovascular fitness. Running and walking are both excellent aerobic exercises. Both will help promote weight loss, improve your sleep, elevate your mood, boost your energy level, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Walking and running are low-cost, easy-to-do anywhere, year-round activities. Both are social activities -- you can walk or run or with a friend. But since running is more rigorous than walking, it is my opinion that you should select a running program to maximize aerobic conditioning in minimum time.

Those who do not wish to run can obtain the same health and fitness benefits by walking. Walking is good exercise for those who are just starting to workout or for those with health problems. For the significantly overweight, walking can be less stressful on the body. Those who desire can slowly build up to running.

In order to get any benefit from a workout, it has to be one that you enjoy and will do day after day. So if you prefer walking, then do it!  As a walker, you might have to walk a little more or eat a little less to achieve your weight goal vs. running. Walkers can make up that difference by going farther in distance.

Distance wise, a 160 pound person burns about 100 calories per mile walking or running. If you look at it on a calories-burned-per-hour basis, a person will burn more calories by running an hour rather than walking an hour.

Calories burned per HOUR for a 160 pound person
Walking 3 mph - 317
Walking 4 mph - 374
Running 5 mph -614
Running 6 mph - 730
Running 7 mph - 835
Running 8 mph - 979
Running 10 mph - 1,306

Calories burned per MILE for a 160 Pound Person
Walking 3.0 mph - 85
Walking 4.0 mph - 91
Walking 5.0 mph - 116
Running 5.0 mph - 116
Running 6.0 mph - 121
Running 7.0 mph - 119
Running 8.0 mph - 123
Running 10.0 mph - 131

You may have heard that walking burns more fat than running because while exercising at a lower intensity, fat is being used as fuel. This is actually true. As you increase your exercise intensity from walking into a run, more carbohydrates from your body are used to fuel the exercise. But it doesn't matter if fat or carbs are being used as fuel. What matters most is how many total calories you burn for the time you have exercised. If you have 30 minutes to exercise you will burn 187 calories walking 4 mph versus burning 365 calories running at 6mph. Walking may burn more fat for fuel, but running burns more total calories which will contribute to greater weight loss.

Another important factor to consider when examining the difference between running and walking is that because of the repetitive nature of running, the risk of injury is greater. Running is considered high impact exercise. This can cause injury to the hip, knee and ankle joints. Walking is a low impact activity and is potentially less damaging to the joints.

If you choose to run, reduce your risk of injury by running on the best surfaces in this order:  Grass, woodland trails, earth, cinders and man-made tracks; wear good quality shoes that have been fitted for you by a shoe expert. Run with correct form and technique, gradually increase the mileage that you run and get some guidance from a personal trainer.

Walking or running both have benefits. Choose that which best meets your needs and preferences.


Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and freelance writer based out of Sammamish, WA. Maria is considered to be one of Western Washington's premier fitness and nutrition experts. As the owner of Active Nutrition Fitness & Consulting, Maria provides highly personalized nutrition services, personal training and preventative and post-rehabilitative fitness programming in her private training studio. She also provides Skype, phone and online nutrition counseling and training for remote clients. Maria leads the industry in the development of cutting edge fitness and nutrition techniques as well as innovative and unique fitness programming. Maria expertly designs every workout, nutrition plan and provides the personal attention, extra motivation, support and accountability that helps her clients achieve optimal performance and health. Contact or read more about Maria at www.myactivenutrition.com.

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