Running vs Walking: Know The Hard Truth


Running and walking both are considered to be potential cardio exercises. As neither is necessarily better than the other, your choice between walking and running completely depends on your health goals and which one of the two you prefer. If you are looking for a way to lose those extra pounds faster, then you should choose running over walking. However, walking can serve the purpose well if you have just begun with exercise or you aren’t able to run. Only point is you will have to spend more time walking than running to reap the same benefits.

Walking towards better health is always in!

Did you know more than 145 million adults include walking to maintain a physically active lifestyle?[1] In addition to that, more than 6 in 10 people walk for transportation, fun, or exercise. Walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits. And the best part is, it does not require any special skills, gym membership or expensive equipment. 

Wondering whether walking can help reduce weight? Well yes, it can. Studies have proved that brisk walking is an excellent moderate-intensity exercise for reducing health risks, building fitness, and assisting in weight loss [2].

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Is walking better than running?

Neither can be said to be better than the other. Though walking can provide many health benefits, running helps burn nearly double the number of calories as walking. 

However, walking does seem to be much safer than running. No special technique is required as such. Running may over time lead to common overuse injuries such as stress fractures, shin joints and some type of friction syndrome. Walking produces the least injuries as compared to any aerobic exercise. 

Runners can prevent injuries by increasing their mileage gradually and trying to mix and match different exercises several times a week.

Moreover, if running seems hard, then you can take up incline walking which involves walking uphill. Incline walking can help burn more calories than walking on a flat surface and can burn a similar number of calories as running.

If you’re new to incline walking, you can start by walking up a slightly inclined surface. 

Incline walking can: 

– Help you lose weight.

– Keep your heart strong. 

– Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and dementia. 

– Improve your mood and mental well being.

Who should consider walking instead of running?

Women during their pregnancy: Walking is a great and safe exercise for mums-to-be. It is an ideal way to make sure you’re getting the exercise you need in pregnancy. Brisk walking works your heart and lungs, without giving any pain to your knees and ankles. 

Older adults & people with joint pain: Walking even a little may help older adults to live longer. Moreover, walking can be a boon to joint pain. Walking helps mobilize the joint fluid and lubricates the joints. People who have mild to moderate joint pain due to osteoarthritis should walk and do other exercises that move the knee joints. The daily walk will relieve stiffness, pain, and fatigue.

Take it easy if you have moderate to severe pain in your knees before you start walking. Start with a shorter walk at an easy pace or try an activity that doesn’t place much stress on the joint. If joint pain remains severe, stop immediately as it is a sign of inflammation or joint damage that needs treatment.

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Tips for walking with bad knees: 

Build your walking time: Maintain a goal of walking for at least 30 minutes per day. You can break it up into 3 segments of 10 minutes each. You can start at an easy or moderate pace as you build your endurance.

Aim for 6000 steps per day: A 2014 study found that people with osteoarthritis knee pain benefit most when they walk 6000 steps per day[4]. Make this your first goal. You can track every step of yours by using a pedometer or a pedometer app. Try exceeding this goal gradually, so that the pain doesn’t increase.

Warming up is a must: The best way to warm up is to walk slowly.  Start off each walk at a leisurely pace to give your muscles time to warm up, and then pick up the speed. Afterwards, gently stretch your leg muscles, particularly your calves and front and back thighs. Hold these stretches for about 20 seconds. If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch. Don’t bounce or jolt, or you could overstretch your muscle tissue which may cause tears, leading to stiffness and tenderness.

The takeaway

Both walking and running are excellent forms of cardio exercise. According to the WHO[4], one should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise each week to stay healthy.
Walking is tortoise of the race! If you want to go slow and steady, you can consider walking instead of running. However, if you prefer being the rabbit, you can choose running. But, just stay safe from injuries.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

Recommended Reads:

Health Benefits Of Walking 30 Minutes Daily 

 7 Essential Running Tips For Beginners


1. CDC VitalSigns. More People Walk to Better Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Ji Z, Li A, Feng T, Liu X, You Y, Meng F et al. The benefits of Tai Chi and brisk walking for cognitive function and fitness in older adults. PeerJ. 2017;5:e3943.

3. White D, Tudor-Locke C, Zhang Y, et al. Daily Walking and the Risk of Incident Functional Limitation in Knee Osteoarthritis: An Observational Study. Arthritis Care & Research. 2014;66(9):1328-1336.

4. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and health. Physical activity and adults.

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