So you want to lose weight, but you’re not sure if you should focus on walking or running? This post dives into which is more beneficial for anyone looking to lose weight and choose between walking and running.
I’ve been a runner for quite awhile. I started running when I was in high school and have periodically picked it up again to train for races or to just get the blood flowing every once in awhile.
However, I started focusing on getting lean and losing fat a year ago, and I had to choose between walking or running. In the past I would have chosen running, just because it feels harder and intuitively I think it burns more calories than walking.
This time I chose to focus on walking – specifically hitting at least 10,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps usually works out to be right around 5 miles for me. The time I spend walking feels almost like meditation, it’s calming and allows me to think through things and clear my mind of stress and anxiety.
The Difference Between Walking and Running
To understand which is better for losing weight, we’re going to look at the key differences between walking and running.
Walking and running are generally differentiated by how many feet are on the ground at a time. While walking at least one foot remains in contact with the ground at all times. While running, both feet will be off the ground at the same time.
Running burns more than twice as many calories per minute as walking. For a person who weighs 160 pounds, walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour for 30 minutes burns about 156 calories. Running at 6 mph for the same time burns about 356 calories.
Benefits of Walking
- Walking is Beginner-Friendly: Regardless of where you’re at physically, you can typically start walking fairly easily. If you’re starting from totally sedentary, you can start with very small intervals of walking (i.e. walk to the mailbox and back). If you’re already somewhat active, adding a 30 minute walk to your daily routine is totally achievable.
- Walking is Relatively Low Impact: If you have issues with any of your lower body joints, running may actually be painful. Walking on the other hand is low impact, and getting moving can actually help alleviate discomfort in your joints.
- Walking Has a Lower Impact on Appetite: When you run, you are raising your heart rate quite a bit. Even though you’re burning more calories than walking, your appetite may also drastically increase which will cause you to eat more and slow your weight loss progress.
Benefits of Running
- Running Burns More Calories Than Walking: If you’re limited on time, running is a more efficient way to burn calories than walking. Because your heart rate is more elevated, you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.
- Running Improves Cardio Fitness: Both walking and running can improve your cardiovascular fitness, but running is a much stronger stimulus for your body to adapt to and recover from. As a result, running does a better job of improving your fitness levels.
Benefits of Cardio Training
These are some of the benefits of cardio training, which can come in the form of walking, running, swimming, cycling, or any extended and repeated movement. These benefits can have a big impact on your quality of life, which is why this type of training is so important for everyone.
- Improved Heart Health and Efficiency
- Improved Lung Function
- Lowered Resting Heart Rate
- Lowered Risk of Disease; including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, some cancers, and stroke.
- Better Strength, Stamina, and Fitness
- More Active Immune System
- Stronger Bones/Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis
- Improved Mood
Finding a form of cardio training that works for you, and that you actually enjoy makes getting healthy much simpler. And as you increase your activity, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of your hard work.
Conclusion: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
In my opinion, walking is more effective because you can walk for a LONG TIME without getting exhausted and without spiking your appetite.
I’ve found that when I increase my weekly running miles, my appetite tends to follow. This results in me actually eating more, and often gaining weight.
Changing your lifestyle to include more walking can be an effective way to overhaul your life to be more healthy overall. If you find that you can walk to stores or restaurants within a mile of where you live, you may start dropping weight more quickly.
I find that if you want to sustain your increased activity levels, and not worry about injuries or overtraining, you should start with consistent walking – and just keep doing it until it stops providing benefits (which probably isn’t going to happen).
Read More: What are the 5 Pillars of Health?
Do You Lose More Belly Fat Walking or Running?
While it can seem like running would lead to more fat loss, this isn’t necessarily the case. You’ll ultimately lose fat by consuming fewer calories than you expend over an extended period of time. You can’t target fat loss in specific areas by doing one exercise versus another.
One side note here is that belly fat can often be a result of hormonal imbalances or other issues. For example, if your sleep is terrible and your testosterone (for males) is very low, you’re much more likely to store excess body fat. So it’s important to make sure you’re living a healthy lifestyle in other areas besides just your walking or running routine.
How Long Should You Walk or Run To Lose Weight?
If your goal is to lose weight, the equation is really quite simple. Just burn more calories than you consume. You can easily track this by wearing a smart watch or fitness tracker, and tracking your food consumption with an app like My Fitness Pal.
You’ll find that the more your walk or run, the more calories you burn throughout the day. There is a diminishing effect though. You may find that the more you walk or run, the hungrier you get. This may make it more difficult to stay in a caloric deficit – and harder to lose weight.
Should You Choose A Long Walk Over a Short Run?
Choosing between a long walk or a short run should really be based upon your current abilities, your interests, and your time constraints. If you have a limited amount of time to burn a certain amount of calories, running can be a more efficient way to reach that goal.
However, longer walks can be easier on your joints, and can be easier to recover from so you can go on more walks again sooner.