There is much evidence pointing to regular exercise as the single best thing a person can do to improve health and longevity, and walking and running are popular ways to get the exercise you need. So, which is better?
We asked Robert Sallis, MD, a sports medicine physician at our Fontana Medical Center in California. It turns out the answer is not as clear as you might think, he says.
While hardcore runners may look down at walkers, evidence suggests the health benefits are about the same. In fact, recent studies showed that while runners typically expend twice as much energy as walkers for a given amount of time, walkers can get the same health benefit by just walking longer. That means that walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, gives about the same health benefit as running for 15 minutes, 5 days a week.
But how about when it comes to burning calories and losing weight — surely running is better for dropping those extra pounds? Again, the answer is not what you might think, says Dr. Sallis. “The difference in calories burned is not much different whether you walk a mile or run a mile. To be sure, running burns more calories per minute than walking, but by walking longer the difference between the two is negligible.”
The bottom line? Pick the exercise you enjoy the most and maybe even do a little of both. Running is great exercise because you can get your workout done in a shorter time. The downside is that the increased intensity is harder on the joints, tendons, and muscles, and your injury risk is greater.
In the end, walking may be the more sustainable form of exercise for most people, but whichever you prefer, know you can get tremendous health benefits from either walking or running, and you should make one or both activities a part of your routine. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.