WALKING VS. RUNNING: Is One Healthier Than the Other?

Nutrition Health Review, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

WALKING VS. RUNNING: Is One Healthier Than the Other?


According to the 2008 United States Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG), adults can gain substantial health benefits by doing at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity or 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week OR an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. (1) Aerobic exercise is defined as any sustained exercise that stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs; it benefits our bodies by improving the utilization of oxygen. (2) Aerobic exercise comprises a variety of physical activities, but walking and running are probably the most popular due their relative simplicity, convenience, and low cost when compared with other activities, such as swimming, biking, or exercise classes, all of which can potentially require travel, the purchase of expensive equipment or club membership, and/or some degree of physical skill. According to PAG, walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking) is considered a moderate-intensity exercise, while running (aka jogging) is considered a vigorous-intensity exercise. Like other aerobic exercises, walking and running have both been shown to lower the risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. (1) But is one more beneficial to our health than the other? Let's take a look.

OVERALL HEALTH BENEFITS

In a 2013 study by Williams and Thompson, (3) researchers examined the health data of 33,060 runners and 15,945 walkers from the National Runners'and Walkers' Health Study to determine any differences of effect between the two exercises on coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors. They found that, when using an equivalent amount of expended energy, walking and running produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly coronary heart disease.

WEIGHT LOSS

Running burns 2.5 times more calories than walking does when performed for an equal amount of time. (4) In other words, running for 30 minutes will burn 2.5 times more calories than walking for 30 minutes. Many might see this as an advantage to running, especially those who have limited time to exercise or are trying to lose weight. Examining the health data from the National Runners'and Walkers' Health Study investigators, a separate study (5) found that after 6.2 years of following either a consistent running regimen or consistent walking regimen, people in the running group lost more weight than those in the walking group. While both groups saw an overall reduction in body mass index (BMI), the runners, particularly the men, experienced a significantly greater reduction in BMI than the walkers.

RISK OF INJURY

Running carries a greater risk of injury than walking. In a 2007 meta-analysis evaluating the incidence and associated potential risk factors of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners, van Gent et al (6) reported that 1 in 4 (25.9%) runners experienced injuries that were significant enough to restrict their running. Knee injuries were most common, and male runners experienced more injuries than female runners. …

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