Is Walking as Good for You as Running?

At a Glance

  • There are many health benefits to be gained from both running and walking.
  • Running can help you lose weight faster but has more risk of injury.
  • Walking is an excellent place to start if you’ve never exercised before.

Both walking and running are excellent cardiovascular workouts, but is walking as good for you as running?

Both are exercises you can do anytime it suits you, and anywhere you choose. It could be a run around your local park or a walk along the beach. You can do either with a friend, or take time for yourself and explore your local area.

So, how do you decide which is better for you?

Let’s take a look at the benefits that each can provide, as well as some of the risks involved.

Benefits of Both Walking and Running

There are benefits that apply to both walking and running equally, either can:

  • Elevate your mood.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Boost energy levels.
  • Decrease the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Decrease the risk of diabetes.
  • Decrease the risk of heart disease.
  • Decrease the risk of cancer.
  • Decrease your cholesterol levels.
  • Decrease risk of age related cataracts.
  • Help you live longer.

Any cardiovascular exercise we do benefits our health.

Elevate Your Mood

We live in an age where everybody is busy all the time. Fitting in exercise may seem like an impossible task. Yet exercise can improve our mood and help with depression. It can give us some valuable quality time away from the hectic demands we face day to day. It’s so nice to be able to switch off for a while.

When we exercise we increase the level of hormones called endocannabinoids. These hormones are opioids and have been likened to having a similar effect as cannabis. They produce a feeling of euphoria, lessen anxiety and reduce our ability to feel pain.

Due to the increase of blood flow to our brain when we exercise, other hormones are released called endorphins. These have been called our bodies natural anti-depressant, and have been shown to be beneficial when dealing with depression.

Exercising makes us feel good about ourselves and therefore boosts our confidence and self esteem.

Improve Sleep

Stress and inactivity can interfere with our ability to get a good night’s sleep and lower our appetite. Exercise helps us exert higher energy levels and release good hormones, which can help you sleep better.

Decrease the Risk of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension can be helped by regular exercise. Being overweight, stressed and inactive are all factors that can lead to high blood pressure. Exercise can help with these risks and lead to a lowering of your blood pressure.

Decrease the Risk of Diabetes

Being overweight puts you at more risk of developing diabetes. Exercise can help with weight loss, which can lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent. Being more active, combined with a healthy diet, will lower your blood sugar levels and increase your sensitivity to insulin.

Decrease the Risk of Heart Disease

Having a healthy heart decreases the risk of coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by a buildup of plaque inside the arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Exercise helps keep our arteries flexible and more able to deliver a good blood supply. Being fit and active can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, by up to 50 percent.

The heart is basically a muscle responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood around our body. Just like all the other muscles in our body it benefits from regular exercise.

Cardiovascular exercise will help your heart become stronger and work more efficiently.

Exercise that raises the heart rate, even doing your housework, has been shown to lower the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Decrease the Risk of Cancer

Let’s be honest, none of us ever want to visit the doctor and hear the dreaded C-word. Exercise can reduce the risk of this happening. We reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, endometrial cancer and colon cancer if we exercise regularly.

This is because regular exercise can lower the levels of certain hormones associated with cancer and improve the digestive system. Combining these factors with keeping a healthy weight and boosting our immune system, enables us to fight disease.

Decrease Your Cholesterol Levels

We all need cholesterol, a dense fatty substance found in our body cells. It helps our body make hormones and vitamin D, and is also found in bile which helps digest our food. There are however the good guys (HDL) and the bad guys (LDL).

Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) can create plaque that builds up in your arteries. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) carry the LDLs to the liver which then eliminates them from the body.

Exercise can help increase the level of HDLs and lower the level of LDLs, hence helping the good guys fight the bad guys.

Decrease the Risk of Age Related Cataracts

Cataracts form when we’re older as a result of a protein build up on the lens of the eye. This makes our vision cloudy.

Exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of developing cataracts.

Help You Live Longer

We can’t hand you the secret to immortality, however research has shown that moderate exercise can extend your lifespan by up to three years. When we exercise our body becomes fitter and healthier and more efficient at fighting disease.

Running Versus Walking

We’ve detailed some of the benefits that both running and walking provide. Now let’s look at the other pros and cons of each.

Running

Running Pros include:

  • Speedier weight loss.
  • Regulates your appetite.

When we run we expend more energy than we do walking which can lead to speedier weight loss. Energy is expended 2.5 times faster when running rather than walking. This applies whether you’re running around a track or pumping it out on a treadmill at the gym. This means that as we expend more energy we burn more calories.

Provided we’re burning more calories than we consume we’ll lose weight. You might want to use a calorie counter like this one to track the amount of calories you burn.

The upshot is that you’d have to spend more time walking than running to gain the same benefit. It takes a lot less time to run a mile than it does to walk it. A study has shown that even when walkers spent more time exercising, the weight loss of runners is still greater.

A recent study suggests that running regulates our appetite more than walking.

A group of runners and walkers were provided with a buffet after exercising; the runners consumed almost 200 calories less than they’d burned, whereas the walkers consumed almost 50 calories more than they’d burned. The researchers think this may be due to an increase in the levels of a hormone peptide YY, which may suppress appetite.

Running Cons include:

  • Changes to your immune system.
  • Hazard to your health.
  • Increased risk of injury.

Long distance running can change your immune system and leave you susceptible to infections for up to 72 hours after training or running a marathon.

Whilst we’ve already discovered that both walking and running are good for our heart health, too much running may be a hazard to your health. One study found that the mortality rate of strenuous joggers was the same as that of people who did no exercise at all.

Whether you’re pounding the pavement, running around a track or exploring the local parks and woodlands, there’s an increased risk of injury associated with running.

When you’re running you’re moving at a fast pace and there’s more chance you’ll fall and injure yourself.

Running is a high impact exercise which can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, especially if we over train. These include:

Runner’s Knee

Is a common overuse injury. It happens when the cartilage on the knee cap wears down. You may feel pain when sitting with your knee bent for a long time, using stairs or squatting.

Achilles Tendonitis

Happens when the Achilles tendon, which joins the calf to the back of the heel, becomes inflamed or irritated. This can be caused by repetitive stress to the tendon through running too far, or not stretching your calf muscles properly before running.

Shin Splints

Cause pain in the front or side of your leg due to small tears in the muscles around your shin bone (tibia). This can happen after changes to your running routine, such as running longer or more often. Runners with flat feet or high arches are more prone to this type of injury.

Muscle Injuries

Occur when we overstretch them and a small tear can happen. The most common muscles injured are your hamstrings, quads, calf or groin.

Plantar Fasciitis

Is the name for small tears or inflammation in the band of tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to toes.

Stress Fractures

Occur most commonly in the shins, feet or heels. It’s a small crack in the bone that will hurt. This can again be caused by working too hard, or too long too soon.

IT Band Syndrome

Causes pain on the outer part of the knee. The IT band is a ligament that runs from outside of the knee to the top of the hip. This ligament can thicken rubbing the knee bone and causing inflammation.

Walking

Walking pros include:

  • Lower risk of injury.
  • Burn more fat for fuel.
  • Good place to start exercising.
  • Easier to chat if walking with a friend.

Walking is a low impact exercise and therefore places less strain on our feet and joints. As a result there’s a lower risk of injury. Also moving at a slower pace means we’re more likely to see the uneven paving, or the tree root sticking out, and not trip and fall.

When walking we’re working at a low intensity and fat is being used to fuel the extra energy that we need. You won’t lose weight just by walking; you also need combine it with diet changes.

There may be medical reasons why running would not be good for you and walking would be better. Also if you’re new to exercise walking is a good place to start.

Sometimes we’re more inclined to exercise if someone is doing it with us. Walking along with a friend and chatting may make the time pass quicker.

Walking Cons include

  • Slower weight loss.

As walking doesn’t expend as much energy as running, whilst you may still lose weight, your weight loss will be slower. This is because you’re burning fewer calories.

Having Shown You the Pros and Cons, Is Walking as Good for You as Running?

You could think of exercise as being a form of medicine for your overall good health and well being. As with any medicine, it’s important to get the right dosage. It may help you decide what’s right for you by looking at the guidelines from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Irrespective of whether you walk or run, any exercise you do is better than doing no exercise at all. If you enjoy what you’re doing you’re more likely to continue doing it. If you still can’t decide you could always mix it up and do a bit of both.

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