Walking vs Running: Which Form of Cardio Has Better Health Benefits? (Sports Illustrated)

Posted: Feb 23, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated on February 22, 2023.


Walking vs Running: Which Form of Cardio Has Better Health Benefits?

By Ashley Mateo

Running versus walking? It shouldn’t be an either/or. These two activities offer similar benefits for your physical and mental health—the degree to which will mostly depend on your goals, your current fitness level and the intensity at which you want to exercise. Running, which inherently requires more energy, is generally more efficient, meaning it’s going to do more for you (and your body) in less time. But a regular walking habit can also significantly improve your overall health and longevity, while being more accessible and less taxing on your body.

Curious as to how these two forms of exercise can seem so different and yet share so many benefits? Read on to find out the specific perks to each activity, which one is better for certain goals (whether that’s weight loss or heart health) and how different variables (like hills and weighted vests) can change the effects of the workout.

Benefits of Walking

Walking is so much more than a way to get from point A to point B. In fact, for every 2,000 steps you take each day, your risk for premature death may fall by eight to 11 percent, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in September 2022. And there are a slew of more specific physical benefits that come from walking: It can help you maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat; prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes; improve cardiovascular fitness; strengthen your bones and muscles; improve muscle endurance; and improve your balance and coordination, according to the MayoClinic. The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the better.

But the benefits of walking aren’t just physical. Just 30 minutes of walking per day can reduce symptoms of depression, research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine determined; studies also show it can improve self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. Walking up and down stairs was shown to be more effective at boosting energy than grabbing a cup of coffee in a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. And, walking can improve your cognitive function and memory, according to a study from the journal NeuroImage.

Benefits of Running

Since running is basically a more intense version of walking, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that the two activities share a lot of benefits. Runners had a 30 percent lower risk of death from any cause and a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than non-runners, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It can also help you lose weight, not just because the average 140-pound person burns approximately 13.2 calories per minute, according to the American Council of Exercise, but because they continue burning an elevated number of calories post-run (that’s called the afterburn effect, and it lasted five minutes longer for runners than it did for walkers in a study published in the The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research). Running also strengthens your muscles, joints and bones, thanks to that repetitive impact.
And, again, there are the non-physical benefits: Running for two weeks reduced symptoms of depression in a study published in the journal Cortex; even a 10-minute session on the treadmill was shown to improve someone’s mood, research in Nature found. When researchers compared the mental health of runners and non-runners, they found that runners had lower stress and greater psychological well-being, according to a review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Just 15 minutes of running improves memory, a study in the journal Psychological Reports reported, and it can make you more cognitively flexible, meaning you can adapt and switch gears more easily, according to research in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Walking or Running?

Weight loss is a numbers game—meaning you have to burn more calories than you consume—so from that perspective, running is more efficient than walking. On average, running a mile on the treadmill burned 33 more calories than walking, a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found. And calories burned through running led to 90 percent more weight loss than calories burned through walking in another study published in the same journal.

There’s no shortcut for weight loss, though. Losing weight through walking or running takes time, and will eventually require new challenges—increasing the duration of your walk or run, increasing the speed at which you walk or run or adding hills or weight while walking or running—so that you don’t plateau.

Read the full article here.

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