The Benefits and Risks of Walking Versus Running
Your coworker swears by her morning runs. Your neighbor claims to get all the exercise she needs by walking. So is one better than the other? The answer is a personal one. Both running and walking, when done on a regular basis, provide a full array of health benefits, including:
- ]]>Decreased blood pressure]]>
- ]]>Improved cholesterol levels]]>
- Increased cardiac endurance
- ]]>Increased bone strength]]>
- Increased muscle mass
- Weight loss or maintenance
The key is determining which activity is best for you.
The first question many people ask when considering a new exercise is: How many calories does it burn? Mile for mile, running and walking burn approximately the same number of calories. But minute for minute, the faster your speed, the more calories you burn, giving running the calorie-burning edge.
|Weight (in pounds)|
Risk of Injury
There is a lower risk of injury with walking than running. One study, published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at 867 regular runners and walkers and found that walkers were less likely to get injured than runners. The risk of injury increases with increasing intensity and duration if you are not properly conditioned. A good rule of thumb is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. Proper warm up and stretching will also reduce your risk of injury.
Fitting It Into Your Schedule
Walking can easily be spread out over the course of a day (ie, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes during lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening) and generally does not require special clothing other than good shoes. Running, on the other hand, requires a complete change of clothes and a post-workout shower, so it makes more sense to do it over one block of time during the day.
Walking Is More Suitable for Some
People who have not exercised regularly in a long time may want to begin with walking and then progress to running. Unlike running, walking is also suitable—and beneficial—for people with certain medical conditions.
Getting a Complete Workout
To get the most out of your workout, try adding strengthening and stretching exercises. Strength training the upper body and torso is important since they do not get much of a workout during regular running or walking. Strength training your lower body is also important because it will enhance your walking and running performance. Regular stretching will help loosen up your muscles.
The Choice That’s Best for You
Remember, if you have a doctor’s clearance to run or walk, choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to which activity you prefer. Mixing them up can also be a great way to add variety and flexibility to your exercise schedule.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American College of Sports Medicine
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Healthy Living Unit
Colbert LH, Hootman JM, Macera CA. Physical activity-related injuries in walkers and runners in the aerobics center longitudinal study. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2000; 10(4):259-263.
Corvera-Tindel T, Doering LV, Woo MA, et al. Effects of a home walking program on functional status and symptoms in heart failure. Am Heart J . 2004; 147(2):339-346.
Greiwe JS, Kohrt WM. Energy expenditure during walking and jogging. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2000; 40(4):297-302.
McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins; 1996.
Suter E, Marti B, Gutzwiller F. Jogging or walking—comparison of health effects. Annals of Epidemiology. 1994; 4(5):375-381.
Walking for exercise and pleasure. Federal Citizen Information Page; Pueblo, Colorado website. Available at: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/health/walking/walking.htm. Accessed February 2, 2004.
Last reviewed June 2010 by ]]>Brian P. Randall, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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