Is it better to walk or run?

Ultimately, either running or walking is going to be good for your health. Photo / Getty Images
Ultimately, either running or walking is going to be good for your health. Photo / Getty Images

It's an age-old debate; there are positives and negatives to both but which is better? Running or walking? Nutrition and exercise scientist Kathleen Alleaume breaks down the benefits of the two simple forms of exercise ...

Weight loss

No matter which of the two activities you take up, either are great ways to stay in shape, however for faster weight loss results running wins.

Why? Running is more strenuous so it comes as little surprise the potential calorie burn is greater - two and a half times more so than walking.

Also - researchers have discovered post-exercise appetite suppression is increased after vigorous exercise with participants not eating as many calories after working out.

Walking is the perfect place to start if the whole 'getting fit' thing is new to you. To see a result with walking make the difference up by going farther in distance or, ideally, incorporate speed intervals and work towards increasing the distance.

The winner: Running - the reality is the harder you work the more calories you will burn.

Injury risk

Running isn't for everyone. Of course going full speed increases the risk of obtaining an injury. Running produces ground reaction forces of approximately 2.5 times body weight compared to 1.2 times that of walking.

When we start a new exercise, it takes time for the body, our hearts, muscles and bones, to adapt. Taking on too much at once heightens the risk of sprains, stress fractures and even over-training causing illness - this is why it is important to build up gradually and listen to how your body responds.

The winner: both running and walking are safe when part of a balanced exercise program. Mix it up with both running and walking to prevent over-training. Keep an eye on how your body is responding and complete a proper warm-up and cool down to keep everything in check.

Heart health

Any form of exercise is sure to have a positive impact to heart health but going overboard isn't necessarily better. A study that looked at 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers showed brisk walking cuts the risk of heart trouble, including high blood pressure and diabetes slightly more than running when the same energy is used.

Some studies have suggested doing too much high-intensity exercise may increase dying from a heart attack or developing an irregular heart at a later stage of life. This is caused by intensive exercise in which your heart has to pump harder than it's used to and after 60 minutes of intense physical activity, like running, the chambers of your heart begin to stretch and can overwhelm the muscle's ability to cope.

For the average fit person this adaption is unlikely but it's always a great idea to check in with a GP before starting an intense training program.

The winner: Brisk walking and running improve health providing you build up gradually and do it regularly.


All exercise researchers seemed to agree on one thing: The best exercise is one that you enjoy and that you can stick to over a prolonged period of time but it also depends on your goals.

Walking is great to keep active and avoid injury, but running has greater health and weight loss benefits.

No matter what, both will help manage weight, improve sleep, elevate your mood and cut the risk of chronic disease.


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