Regular runners love the intensity of their sport, while walkers say their activity gives the same result and is better for joint health. But which is really the best workout? Which of the two gives you the most benefit as a cardio exercise?
While it would be easy to just start walking or running, it’s best to know what you are getting yourself hooked on to. Know the benefits and risks involved and be well-informed on what exercise fits you best.
Cardiovascular exercise, also known as cardio or aerobic exercise, is any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a prolonged period of time. And since the heart is a muscle, working your heart during the activity makes it stronger. The activity progressively challenges your most vital internal body organs and improves the function and performance of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system
During the activity, oxygen is heavily involved in the cellular reactions that produce the energy necessary to sustain the activity. Your heart rate increases and you breathe more deeply to maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood and help you to use more oxygen efficiently. With a good amount of cardio exercise, you will feel more energized and will not get tired quickly.
While there are many cardio exercises you can do, the simplest are walking and running. But which one is a better workout?
Walking and Running
You might think of walking as just running slowly but they are distinctively different. When walking, you have one foot on the ground at all times. Whilst in running, you’re in the air during each stride.
Whether you are trying to get in shape or just stay active, both walking and running can help improve your health. Running and walking are both excellent forms of exercise. Those who regularly do either typically have healthier hearts, stronger bones, and lower body weights than those who do not.
Why you should run
Walking can provide a lot of the same benefits as running. But running burns nearly double the number of calories as walking. For a 160-pound person, walking at a brisk, 3.5-mph pace for 30 minutes will burn about 156 calories. Running at a 6-mph pace for that same 30 minutes, on the other hand, will burn more than double the calories.
If brisk walking doesn’t raise your heart rate to 60-80 percent (which is the optimal training zone), running will be a more efficient cardiovascular fitness exercise for you than walking.
Why just walk instead
Running is more physically demanding, which leads people to label it a “better” workout. But each time you land on your feet, your body absorbs the impact of about three times your body weight. So while walking may not be a better workout, it may be a more suitable exercise of choice for some people.
If you’re new to exercise or aren’t able to run, walking is a great choice to help you get in shape. It is accessible for nearly all fitness levels and is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle, and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Since walking is a lower impact exercise, it can be done safely for longer periods of time.
What are the risks?
Though running is a great way to get in shape and lose weight, it’s still a high-impact exercise. High-impact workouts can be harder on your body than low-impact exercises like walking.
Running every day may also increase your risk for an overuse injury. Overuse injuries result from taking on too much physical activity, too fast, and not allowing the body to adjust. Or they can result from technique errors, such as running with poor form and overloading certain muscles. Over time, running may lead to common overuse injuries such as:
- Runner's knee
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures
- Iliotibial band syndrome
Runners have a much higher risk for exercise-related injury than walkers. Walkers have an approximate 1 to 5 percent injury risk, while runners have a 20 to 70 percent chance.
You can lower your risk of running-related injury by:
- Wearing a running shoe that gives you stability and cushioning
- Wearing shoes that fit you correctly
- Replacing worn running shoes every 9 to 12 months
- Running on smooth, even surfaces that are soft
Running and walking are two activities that will surely make you sweat. So make sure to remember to hydrate and drink water. If you need more reasons to drink water, here's why water is necessary to staying healthy.
Walking and running are both suitable forms of exercise for weight loss and heart health. The benefits and risks depend on a person’s goals and current level of health and fitness.
If you are just starting out on cardio exercises it’s best to ease yourself to the training with walking. Once you get the hang of it, you can slowly transition to a higher pace like power walking or jogging.
Running can get you to your fitness goals much faster. It burns twice as many calories and in only half the time of walking. But it does have a higher risk for injuries if not done properly. If you are unfit to run, it’s best to pace yourself and take up walking instead.