Is Walking Just as Good As (Or Better Than) Running?

Why walk when you can run? Learn about the benefits of each and decide which is better for your body.

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You’re huffing and puffing and practically dying on the treadmill, using every tool possible to trick yourself into running longer and faster….when you notice a happy, sprightly woman, enthusiastically walking next to you. “Geez”, you mutter. “Why the hell don’t I just walk too? What’s the point?!” But you know it’s not the same. How could it be? You’re working your ass off, begging for a third lung, and this one’s singing show tunes as she steps contentedly along. Running’s GOT to be better for you. Isn’t it? After all it’s that much harder…

The long answer is mostly yes……but a little bit of no, as well. Here are the reasons why you should run, or walk.

Benefits of Running

1. Your burn calories like crazy.

Lap for lap running burns 2.5 times more calories than walking making it a more efficient exercise. Especially if you’re short on time. For example, for a 160-pound person, running 8 mph burns over 800 calories/hour compared to about 300 calories walking at 3.5 mph. It just takes that much more energy to propel your body forward, faster.

2. You’re less hungry.

Studies show that running curbs your appetite better than walking. Scientists think it’s because running increases levels of the hormone peptide YY, which in known to suppress appetite. In a study, 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 less than they’d burned. Basically the runners picked while the walkers ate.

3. You lose more weight.

When equal amounts of energy were expended (meaning walkers walked the same distance as runners), one study found runners still lost more weight! The runners kept their BMI (muscle to fat ratio) and waist circumference the same- more than the walkers.

4. You’re healthier overall.

Runners have a lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and better cardiovascular health. In a study, runners reduced their risk of heart disease by about 4.5 percent by running an hour a day.

5. Your bones are stronger.

Bones are living tissue and any kind of weight-bearing exercise causes new bone tissue to form. The newly formed tissue combined with the push and tug against the bones cause your bones to get more dense and stronger.

Benefits of Walking

1. You’re EVEN healthier overall.

Studies show walkers (like runners) have a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, and have strong cardiovascular systems. HOWEVER, shockingly, the study reports that walkers who expended the same amount of energy per day reduced their risk of heart disease by more than 9 percent. Double the amount of runners!

2. You have less injuries.

Unlike runners, whose repetitive pounding can cause overuse injuries like shin splints, runner’s knee and tendonitis, walkers get injured less often. And when they do, their injuries are less severe.

3. You get sick less often.

Long-distance runners, unlike walkers are more susceptible to developing infections, because the breakdown of tissue also breaks down your immune system. Basically when you push too hard, your chances of getting sick increase. Walking provides just the right amount of work to boost your immune system and help you win the fight against colds and infection, not lose it.

4. Your heart is the healthiest.

Even though running can help your cardiovascular system be stronger, excessive distance running can damage your heart. Researchers performed measurements of cardiac function in 60 recreational runners before and 20 minutes after the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon. What they found was that before the race, none of the runners had elevated serum markers for cardiac stress. After the race, 36 runners, or 60 percent, had elevated markers of proteins called troponin. Troponin is a major component of cardiac muscle but elevated levels of these proteins can lead to cardiovascular damage. Walkers get the heart boosting benefits without the stress.

5. Your joints are strong.

Excessive running, especially long distance, is good for your bones but bad for your joints. It can deplete the joint of the lubrication and slowly breakdown the cartilage- especially in your knees. Because walking creates less impact and those who walk tend to not rack up as much mileage as the runners, it causes less injury to the joints while still boosting bone density.

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