Is running better than walking?

Runners, I find, tend to be quite evangelical about their sport and are enthusiastic about getting people to join them on their arduous journey. They tend to scoff at walkers, maintaining that walking is something one does for relaxation, not for exercise. Walkers, on the other hand, shake their heads and waddle by, gazing with pity at the runners – their shin splints, knee problems, pulled hamstrings and leg cramps. Each group is convinced that their method is preferable.

So, which is better: running or walking?


Let’s look at how running is better than walking:

First of all, running is cool. It’s much cooler than walking. Runners look as if they’re working really hard. They frown, their mouths hang open, they struggle for breath, they sweat and, well, they pass walkers at speed. Walkers don’t appear to be working quite as hard, no matter how fast they move.

Running doesn’t look as funny as walking, and it definitely doesn’t look as funny or inelegant as race walking. Runners lope along on long, slender legs. They’re like gazelles. Walkers … well … walkers look funny. They keep their legs straight, pump their arms like pistons and wiggle their hips. They look like penguins in a hurry.

People make way for runners. Dog walkers, pram pushers, strollers, hand-holding lovers, even old ladies, step aside for runners. No one steps aside for a walker. ‘Cause they’re just walking, right?

Everyone is impressed when you say you’re a runner. Their eyes widen, their mouths form little circles and they’re lost for words for a little bit. Then they say something like ‘Wow …’ When you say you’re a walker, though, people’s eyes glaze over, the say ‘Oh’, and maybe ‘That’s nice’. Then they change the subject or find someone else to talk to.

Thirty minutes of running burns a whole lot more calories than 30 minutes of walking. So, if weight loss or weight management is your goal, running will do the job more quickly. You can walk to lose weight, of course, but you will have to step up the pace and cover more than double the distance that a runner needs to. According to Greatist, it was found that even when runners and walkers expended the same amount of energy (which meant, of course, that walkers spent more time on the road than the runners), the runners still lost more weight. At the start of the study, the runners were slimmer than the walkers. They also had a better chance of maintaining their BMI and their waist circumference.

According to the same website, running regulates the body’s appetite hormones better than walking. In a study it was found that walkers consumed more calories than they had burned and that runners consumed fewer. It doesn’t say what speed the walkers trained at, though, and I’m wondering if walking at 7 min/km as opposed to, say, 10 min/km would make a difference to the results of the study.


Is there a chance that walking is better than running?

Runners have a lower risk of high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol profiles, diabetes and heart disease than people who don’t exercise. In a Runners and Walkers Health Study, runners who ran for an hour a day reduced their risk of heart disease by about 4.5%. Walkers expending the same amount of energy, on the other hand, reduced their risk by 9%. (Source:

Walking puts less stress on the body. It is a low-impact activity that is suitable for people of all ages and sizes. Runners can experience joint pain – knees, ankles, hips and shoulders – caused by the repetitive motion and the impact of striding. This irritates the joint cartilage and can wear it down or even tear it. Running can also cause muscle injury, as the joints, muscles and bones absorb the impact of the runner’s body on the ground. (Source:

It is definitely easier to start walking than it is to start running. If you can walk from the bed to the couch, you can walk outside and down the road. Running, on the other hand, needs a slow build-up. Because walking is easier to get into, you are more likely to get back out on the road again tomorrow. Running might require a bit more of a pep talk. Being active is good. Choosing an activity that you will do is better than choosing one that will discourage you.

Because it’s easier to start walking than it is to start running, it might be easier to find a walking partner. If you don’t like training alone, walking could be a good way to start being more active and getting fitter.

Is one really better than the other?

In the end, though, both walking and running, as well as any other sport, will reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Both will help you to lose weight and keep the weight off. Both could help prevent dementia and osteoporosis.  Running and walking will tone your legs, your butt, your abs and your arms. Being outdoors, in the sunshine, will boost your vitamin D levels. A brisk walk or a run will increase the oxygen supply to your body, it will relieve stress and make you feel alert and energised.

And, probably most importantly, both activities will put a smile on your face. Feeling healthier, slimmer and energised makes one feel happier. And happier is always good.

So it really makes no difference which one you choose: running or walking. Choose the one that best suits you, and make an effort to get active at least a few times a week. According to Seven habits of Centenarians, ‘Exercise is the only real fountain of youth’, and 30 minutes of walking a day can ‘add years to your life span’.

Maybe we’ll see each other on the road – either running or walking.

Any exercise can lift your mood, and make you feel more energised and alert

Any exercise can lift your mood, and make you feel more energised and alert


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