Walking vs. Running: The Pros and Cons

Walking vs. Running: The Pros and Cons

Walking vs. Running

The most basic form of cardio is doing the function that distinguished human beings from our early ancestors– walking. Turn it up a notch and now we're running. But aside from differences in intensity, walking and running can serve different functions for your health or wellness goals.



Walking is a fantastic starting exercise. Whether coming off an injury or just getting into fitness, walking can be scaled very easily. Start walking slowly over short distances and then gradually increase your pace and distance. Even walking at a casual pace of 2 miles per hour can cut your risk of heart problems by 31%, if you do it regularly.

Research that analyzed information from 33,060 runners and 15,945 walkers found that walking can lower your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure as much as running. They measured exercise by time, not distance.

Walking is certainly less vigorous than running, and therefore is lower in terms of exercise efficiency. It is, however, easier on your joints and is a perfect exercise for rehabilitation and general physical and mental health.

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Improving Your Walking

Incline Walking. When walking outside, look for hills and try to maintain good form: keep your chest upright and your back straight. You’ll feel a solid burn in your legs.

Water walking. This is often used in physical therapy– find shallow water and shuffle your feet. The resistance of the water adds strain and increases the efficiency of the exercise while reducing impact.

Walking poles. Walking poles can actually help you burn more calories– they keep your form more upright and increase your pace naturally.


Each time you land during a run, your legs absorb the impact of about three times your body weight. 

Running is more strenuous, and therefore comes with an increased risk of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition when the cartilage that cushions your bones wears away from overuse.

But this isn’t the full story: a study of 74,752 runners and 14,625 walkers found that the runners had a  lower risk of hip replacement and osteoarthritis than the walkers. This could be explained by a number of factors, but one explanation holds that runners on average have a lower body mass index and therefore exert less stress on their bones.

Risk of injury. In general, runners are more likely to be injured than walkers due to the increased impact. They’re more prone to stress fractures and joint sprains.


Which is Best?

The best exercise is the one that is right for you. If you’re a fit, healthy person with an aptitude for intensity, running may be a good choice. If you’re coming off an injury or simply looking for something a little more casual, then walking could be the best avenue. Weigh your options and get moving!

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