An International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association survey revealed that 58 percent of people have taken to walking and running far more often since the start of the pandemic compared to before. With so many people exercising outdoors, it has got us thinking: What is the better mode of exercise in terms of walking or running? Both have their own advantages, but which one is superior?
Is it better to walk or run?
Popular opinion might have you believe that running is a superior workout to walking, however, this isn’t necessarily true.
“People will typically burn more calories while they run compared to when they walk but that doesn’t mean it’s a ‘better’ workout by any means,” says Steve Stonehouse, NASM CPT, USATF certified run coach and director of education for STRIDE, via WellandGood.com.
“There are a lot of factors that will decide which would be ‘better’ and they’re mostly specific to the individual.”
Despite being commonly categorized as an easier choice, walking may not always be the case.
“You can perform a well-designed walking workout, and it can be very difficult,” says Stonehouse. “Variables like speed, incline, and duration will all impact the effectiveness of your workout. An easy-paced 30-minute walk will not produce the same results as a high-intensity speed workout for a running, but the same goes for an easy-paced run and a walking workout including different grades of incline,” Stonehouse told via WellandGood.com.
The benefits of running
Running is an effective way to engage your muscles and promote longevity. Moreover, it has been shown to better your endurance, cardiac health, mood, and sleep. The advantages of slow jogging extend to all these areas along with a boost in stamina.
The benefits of walking
Walking is a great way to keep your body healthy and your brain sharp. It’s an accessible and low-impact form of exercise that can help improve mental health and overall well-being.
What equipment do you need?
When going for a run, walk, or jog having the right pair of shoes is essential. The kind of shoe that you wear will depend on the activity – walking shoes offer more support and cushioning for greater comfort, however running shoes are often lighter and provide better agility.
Walking vs. running: Which is “better” for you?
WellandGood.com. compared two workout modalities in six different categories, giving you insights on which one could be best suited for you based on your goals.
Nevertheless, it is essential to bear in mind one thing:
“It’s not about walking versus running. It’s about learning how to incorporate both to get the best workout possible while keeping it safe and effective,” said Stonehouse. Even if you’re just starting out, you should be proud of yourself for taking the initiative to get active. No matter how quickly you progress, just being mindful and conscious of your body is something to commend.
For your joints: Walking
Walking is one of the best workouts you can do if you’re looking for something low-impact but with high efficacy. It is an excellent way to stay fit without having to stress your body too much.
“Walking puts less impact on your joints, primarily because one foot is in contact with the ground at all times, whereas with running, you’re leaving the ground with both feet on every step,” Stonehouse told via WellandGood.com. “Depending on your efficiency, the pounding can add up with the miles you’re logging.”
Running can lead to a higher risk of injury compared to walking, as one study showed that male runners or joggers had a 25% chance of developing problems with their feet, Achilles tendons, and tibias. That stated, runners can decrease their risk of injury by slowly building up slowly.
For when you’re short on time: Running
According to Magato, jogging one mile and walking two will deliver the same benefit, If you’re short on time, running will just allow you to do it faster.
“Thirty minutes of running is equal to about 60 minutes of walking,” she says. “If you only have 30 minutes to dedicate to a workout, a run might be best, but if you have an hour, a walk may be better.”
For recovery: Walking
Trainers will always advise against using the “go hard or go home” approach for each workout. Taking a walk is an ideal alternative as it’s a great way to exercise but stay relaxed at the same time. “The day after a hard workout, a walk is a great form of active recovery,” says Magato. Plus, walks are a great way to increase your overall mileage, particularly if you’re prone to injury.
For your body mechanics: Running
Going for a walk is great for your health, but running offers a more dynamic exercise as you go through different speeds and slopes. It is much easier to stay in the same position when walking, whereas running helps your body stay challenged and motivated.
“There’s value in putting your body in those slightly different positions,” says Stonehouse.
Incorporating good running posture – like holding your shoulders back – can be beneficial for your core strength and posture, even after you’ve completed a run. It’s a great way to ensure that you are getting all the benefits out of your workout.
For longevity: Running or walking
It has been observed by researchers that incorporating running and/or walking into your daily routine can greatly enhance your physical and mental well-being. Both activities are equally effective in providing benefits to a person’s health. A study from 2003 of 33,000 joggers and 16,000 walkers revealed that running and/or walking can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.
Plus, both activities offer the same types of benefits for your mental health. “Being active improves the quality of life, and both running and walking can help improve your mood, build self-confidence, and help you deal with stress,” says Magato.
Consider a run-walk or running slowly
Combining walking and running might be an ideal way to increase endurance. It has the benefits of both, allowing you to get your heart rate up with running while having the lower impact of walking. Couch-to-5Kers and even marathoners use this technique for training.
Mike Curry, a certified personal trainer and founder of Strongboard Balance, recommends his clients test the “rog:” technique.
“It’s a little faster than a jog, but it’s slower than a run, with higher knees so that you get a little more flexing, but you’re coming down more flatfooted versus heel to toe, which can be very hard on the joints,” Curry said via WellandGood.com.
What is the Japanese running method?
Hiroaki Tanaka, a professor at Fukuoka University in Japan, developed the “niko-niko” or “smile” jogging method. This is a running method that allows you to sustain the pace for longer periods of time – so long that you can even sing your favorite song.
Is it better to walk fast or jog slowly?
According to Curry, a great way to get both cardiovascular and joint health benefits out of physical activity like walking, jogging, or running is to power walk. This way you can maximize the value of each exercise without unnecessarily putting too much strain on your body.
“Walking—not strolling—at a fast pace, as fast as you can go before you run, is gonna be the most efficient,” Curry says.
At the same time, Curry says “to each their own.” Ultimately, you should choose an exercise that you have fun doing and that motivates you to get out and get active.
Is it better to run for 30 minutes or walk for an hour?
Walking at a brisk pace for some time and running slowly for lesser time gives you the same amount of health & cardiovascular benefits. In fact, the World Health Organization suggests that individuals must do moderate activity for around 150-300 minutes a week, or vigorous activity which amounts to 75-150 minutes in a week.
So, which one should you choose?
“Both running and walking have their benefits—and both can be included in the same fitness plan,” says Stonehouse. “The ‘best’ really depends on what you like and are going to do consistently.” If you love to run, great! You can do that whenever you want. But if a good, long walk more your speed? Also great! Both modalities have their own place in any fitness routine—it’s all about figuring out what works for you based on what your goals are, and which one will keep you moving.