The good news is there are virtues with walking and running. Anything that gets you moving and your heart rate up earns a gold star from everyone from the healthcare crowd to weight loss enthusiasts. But is one better than the other? The short answer is, it depends.
Run for fast-track fitness
Running compares to walking about the same way HIIT (high intensity interval training) compares to steady state exercise. Running and HIIT burn calories and boost fitness levels faster. In fact, you would have to walk about twice as long as you run to get the same calorie burning benefits.
Slow and steady may win the race
Sure, you can get fit faster with running, but you’re also more likely to sustain an injury. Runners, particularly those clocking the most miles, get hurt pretty often. Pounding the pavement puts joints at risk. There is also the ever-present danger of falling. When you move faster, your reaction time is slower so branches, uneven sidewalks and the like could send you hurtling to the ground. Walking carries very little risk of injury, so you have fewer worries about being sidelined on the couch. Ultimately, if an injury keeps you from running you are sitting still.
Boost heart health with both
Walking and running help you manage stress, stave off chronic illness and boost heart health. Running has a sweet spot, though. Too much (think marathon running) can actually reduce heart health. Runners should take care not to overdo it. Consider cross-training; swim or enjoy another exercise to spare your joints and bring down the intensity a few days each week. Don’t forget rest days.
Mix it up
Who says you have to be exclusive? Supercharge your walking routine by mixing in a minute of running every block or so. Try the same routine to reduce overuse running injuries, increase distance and build stamina. Mix in a minute of walking every mile or so. There is another benefit to combining walking and running – alternating intensity (HIIT) will help you burn more calories so you get more bang for your workout buck.
Running and walking improve physical health outcomes and boost overall well-being. Walking is appropriate for all fitness levels, so it is the perfect way to wade into fitness. Running adds intensity and helps you see benefits more quickly. For best results, do a little of both.