Walking vs Running: Which is Better?

walking vs running for weight loss
Jordan Siemens/Stone/Getty Images

Runners love the intensity of their sport. And walkers say their activity is better for joint health. But if weight loss is your goal, which form of exercise should win the walking vs running debate? 

There are arguments for and against walking and running for exercise. But when you're trying to lose weight there are additional factors to consider. Make sure you gather all the facts before you decide to walk or run for weight loss.

Walking vs Running: The Research

A university study evaluated walking versus running. The research specifically evaluated the effects of the different forms of exercise on women's appetites. The scope of the research was small. Only 19 women were studied. But the researchers saw a slight difference in the way the women ate after participating in each activity. 

Both runners and walkers ate less after exercise than after rest. But they found that runners tended to eat less than walkers when the energy cost of the activity was considered.  In fact, the runners often consumed fewer calories than they burned during the run. Walkers ate fewer calories after their exercise session, but the calorie deficit they created was less significant.

Researchers found that "relative energy intake was lowest (i.e., creating a more negative balance) when exercise intensity was high." But the researchers also said that further studies are needed to determine if the difference in food intake is due to exercise mode (walking vs running) or due to the differences in the walkers and runners bodies.

Walkers in the study carried more body fat than the runners.

Walking vs Running: What's Best for You?

So does this mean that you should ditch your walking workout? Probably not. If you have a regular walking program in place, the results of a single small study shouldn't sway your efforts to burn calories with a smart walking program.

Especially when the results of the study show that walking can have positive effects on your diet.

But if you are capable of higher intensity exercise, you may benefit from adding one or two harder workouts, like running, into your schedule to boost your caloric expenditure. And the study suggests that you don't necessarily need to worry about overeating as a result of the higher effort.

But keep in mind that running isn't the best weight loss exercise for everyone.  Oddly enough, running can even cause weight gain in some situations. If you start running too fast or add miles too quickly, you can easily overdo it and become injured. It's hard to burn enough calories for weight loss when you're recovering on the couch.

There is no clear winner in the walking vs running debate. Both activities provide benefits for weight loss and for improved health. The best exercise for weight loss is the one that you actually do. What matters most is consistency.

If you are losing weight successfully with a walking program, then stick with it.

  Regardless of your pace, just lace up your shoes and hit the trails. And if you love to run, then keep pounding the pavement as long as your joints remain healthy. Either way, you'll burn calories, build strength, decrease stress and do good for your body.

Sources:

D. Enette Larson-Meyer, et al. "Influence of Running and Walking on Hormonal Regulators of Appetite in Women." Journal of Obesity January 2012.

Continue Reading