By Erica Moe | Get Fit
Walking and running are two of the most popular forms of exercise in the U.S. In a head-to-head battle, which is better?
Same benefits, minus the risk
Research shows that walking has the same health benefits of running. Both can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease; improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels; reduce your risk for osteoporosis; help elevate your mood; and enhance mental well-being. Interestingly, in a study, walkers reduced their risk of heart disease twice as much as the runners, 9 percent instead of 4.5 percent. Walking just 21 minutes a day can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.
Walking is good medicine, but without the risk. Running puts more stress on the body and increases the risk for injuries like runner’s knee, muscle strains and shin splits. About 60 percent of runners experience an injury serious enough to keep them from being active. So why not choose walking, instead of running to the doctor? The risk of exercise-related injuries is 1 to 5 percent for walkers, compared to 20 to 70 percent for runners.
The big difference
If you are only in it to lose weight, running is the winner. It can help you lose and maintain body weight more effectively than walking. It is a myth that walking and running a mile burns the same amount of calories. However, in rare instances, the calorie burn for both can be similar — but almost impossible to attain.
Example: A 60-minute walk at 4.6 mph and a 30-minute run at 6 mph both burn 270 calories for a 130-pound woman. The problem is, that walking pace is nearly impossible.
If you want to burn as much calories walking as you would running, follow some of the strategies below.
Bridge the gap
If you want to make your walking more effective, try these calorie boosters.
Find some inspiring scenery by the beach. The change in terrain can add to the intensity, burning more calories.
Walk uphill; it can burn calories two to three times faster than walking on a flat surface. A 60-minute walk at 4 mph with a 10 percent incline burns 567 calories!
Water walking can also burn over 500 calories per hour.
Lastly, change the tempo. Interval walkers lost six times more weight than walkers who maintained a steady pace.
Track it. People who track their steps take an average of 2,500 more steps each day. More steps equal more calories.
Perfect your form:
- Stand up tall.
- Keep your eyes on the horizon. Focusing on an object ahead of you can increase your speed over 20 percent!
- Lift your chest and tighten your abs.
- Bend your arms.
- Keep your front leg straight, but not locked.
- Aim your knees and toes forward.
- Land on your heels.
Next steps (literally):
Approximately 2,000 steps equal a mile. Try to get 10,000 a day. The average person will walk about 65,000 miles in a lifetime, so make the most of it. Make walking a priority, take the pledge at everybodywalk.org/pledge and commit to one (or all six) goals.
—Erica Moe, M.S., is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.