Is Running Really Better Than Walking?

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14_IMG_042120130404_KavaGornaPhotographed by Kava Gorna.
Full disclosure: sometimes, we're lazy girls. So, whether it's seven ways to simplify our morning routine or how to make our time at the gym actually enjoyable, we're into it. And to keep us on track, we've turned to Greatist, because they've got us excited about staying fit — and having fun doing it.

There are many reasons why people start running: to stay in shape, boost energy, or snag that treadmill next to our longtime gym crush (please follow our gym etiquette tips before making any moves!). Running can help keep the heart healthy, improve mood, and stave off sickness; plus recent studies have found running is a great way to lose and maintain weight. But, research suggests going full speed isn’t the only route to good health.

RELATED: 18 Ways To Change Up Your Running Routine

While walking can provide many of the same health benefits associated with running, recent research suggests running may be the better bet for those looking to shed some pounds. Unsurprisingly, people expend two-and-a-half times more energy running than walking, whether that’s on the track or on the treadmill. So, for a 160-lb person, running burns about 800 calories an hour compared to about 300 calories walking.

Running Vs. Walking Calories
More interesting, a recent study found that even when runners and walkers expended equal amounts of energy (meaning walkers spent more time exercising and covered greater distances), runners still lost more weight. Not only did the runners begin the study slimmer than the walkers; they also had a better chance of maintaining their BMI and waist circumference. Another recent study supports the idea that running or brisk walking might be the better bet. Researchers found speedier folks tend to be healthier than the slowpokes, even if those going slowly spend more time exercising. (Of course, it’s possible that less healthy people are more inclined to walk slowly in the first place.)
13_IMG_032020130404_KavaGornaPhotographed by Kava Gorna.
That difference could possibly be explained by another recent study, which suggests that running regulates our appetite hormones better than walking. After running or walking, participants were invited to a buffet, where walkers consumed about 50 calories more than they had burned and runners ate almost 200 calories fewer than they’d burned. Runners also had higher levels of the hormone peptide YY, which may suppress appetite.

Beyond losing weight, walking may still be super beneficial to our health. Researchers looked at data from the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study and found that people who expended the same amount of calories — regardless of whether they were walking or running — saw pretty much the same health benefits. We’re talking a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.

But, even the most time-efficient athletes might want to think twice before sprinting away all the time. Running puts more stress on the body and increases the risk for injuries like runner’s knee, hamstring strains, and the dreaded shin splits (which plague even the most consistent runners). And of course, some people simply prefer to take things slow.

RELATED: Can Too Much Running Hurt My Heart?

Your Action Plan
When running isn’t in the cards, walking with weights might be the next best solution to getting in an energized workout. One study showed walking at a 4 mph on the treadmill with hand and ankle weights was comparable to jogging at 5 mph without the extra poundage.

No matter which pace feels right, always make sure the body is ready for action. 60% of runners experience an injury serious enough to keep them from being active. So, remember that a sweat session may be too strenuous if talking to that workout buddy leaves us gasping for air (aka the “talk test” fail). Listening to the body and completing a proper warm–up and cool down are all ways to prevent injuries, so stay informed and spend more time running on the treadmill (and less time running to the doctor).

Bored with both walking and running? There are about, oh, a bazillion other ways to keep active, from yoga and Pilates to weight lifting and mountain biking, and pretty much everything in between. Don’t be afraid to try new activities to stay happy and healthy!

The Takeaway
Regular cardio (at any speed) can help keep the body healthy, not to mention improve mood and energy levels. But, lap for lap, running burns about 2.5 times more calories than walking. Running may also help control appetite, so runners may lose more weight than walkers no matter how far the walkers go. Still, running isn't for everyone; going full-speed might increase injury risk. Adding hand and ankle weights can help pick up the intensity while maintaining a slower pace.

Full disclosure: sometimes, we're lazy. So, whether it's seven ways to simplify our morning routine or how to make our time at the gym actually enjoyable, we're into it. And to keep us on track, we've turned to Greatist, because they've got us excited about staying fit — and having fun doing it.