Running vs. Walking: Which is Better?

Running vs. Walking: Which is Better?

Running and walking are popular forms of exercise that offer numerous health benefits. This analysis aims to compare the benefits of running and walking, exploring various factors that contribute to their effectiveness as fitness activities.

By exploring key factors such as physical exertion, cardiovascular health, calorie expenditure, musculoskeletal impact, and psychological benefits, I aim to provide insights into the advantages and disadvantages of each activity.

Various research studies on the subject have been analyzed to offer a comprehensive understanding of the benefits associated with running and walking.

Physical Exertion

Running generally requires a higher level of physical exertion compared to walking. Studies have shown that running engages more muscle groups, leading to greater cardiovascular benefits and increased calorie burning.

However, walking can also provide significant health benefits, especially for beginners or those with physical limitations.

Cardiovascular Health

Both running and walking contribute to cardiovascular health. Research has demonstrated that regular running and brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, and enhance overall cardiovascular fitness.

Studies have indicated that running may offer greater cardiovascular benefits due to its higher intensity.2

Calorie Expenditure

Running typically burns more calories per unit of time compared to walking, making it an efficient activity for weight loss. However, walking can also be an effective means of burning calories, especially when performed at a brisk pace or for longer durations.

The intensity and duration of the exercise play key roles in determining calorie expenditure.3

Musculoskeletal Impact

Running involves a higher impact on the musculoskeletal system compared to walking. Studies4 have indicated that runners are more susceptible to injuries such as stress fractures or joint issues.

On the other hand, walking imposes lower stress on the joints and bones, making it a suitable option for individuals with joint problems or a higher risk of injury.

Psychological Benefits

Both running and walking have positive effects on mental well-being. Research suggests that engaging in aerobic exercises like running and walking can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood, and enhance cognitive function.

The social aspect of walking can also contribute to psychological well-being.


Running and walking offer distinct benefits for fitness and overall health. Running generally provides greater cardiovascular benefits and higher calorie expenditure, making it an effective choice for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.

However, walking offers a lower-impact alternative that is accessible to a broader range of individuals and is associated with reduced musculoskeletal risks. Both activities have been shown to enhance mental well-being. The choice between running and walking depends on individual preferences, physical capabilities, and specific fitness goals.


Is running or walking better for weight loss?

Both running and walking can contribute to weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. However, running generally burns more calories per minute than walking, so it might be more efficient for weight loss, given the same amount of exercise time. It’s important to note that the best exercise for weight loss is the one you enjoy and can maintain consistently.

What is the difference in calorie burn between running and walking?

The number of calories burned during an activity depends on the intensity of the activity, the duration, and individual factors such as body weight and metabolism. However, running typically burns more calories per minute than walking because it requires more energy.

Is running more beneficial for heart health than walking?

Both running and walking are excellent forms of cardiovascular exercise that can improve heart health. However, because running is a higher-intensity activity, it may offer more cardiovascular benefits in a shorter period of time compared to walking.

Does running put more stress on the joints compared to walking?

Yes, running can put more stress on the joints compared to walking. This is because running involves a greater impact force as you hit the ground. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that running is bad for your joints. Regular running, done correctly, can help strengthen your joints and muscles.

I’m a beginner, should I start with walking or running?

It depends on your current level of fitness. If you are new to exercise, it’s often recommended to start with walking and gradually increase your intensity as your fitness improves. However, if you are in reasonable shape and have no underlying health concerns, you might be able to start running at a slow pace and for short distances.

How can I safely transition from walking to running?

A safe way to transition from walking to running is by following a run/walk program. These programs gradually increase the amount of time you spend running and decrease the time you spend walking over several weeks.

Which is better for building muscle, running or walking?

Running engages your muscles more intensively than walking, and can therefore help build leg muscle to some extent. However, for significant muscle building, you’ll likely need to include resistance or strength training exercises in your fitness routine.

Can walking and running be effectively combined in a fitness routine?

Absolutely. Many people find it beneficial to mix walking and running. This not only helps to reduce the risk of injury, but also helps to enhance fitness levels, maintain interest, and increase the overall duration of exercise.

Can walking or running help in improving mental health?

Yes, both walking and running can significantly benefit mental health. Regular exercise of any type can help reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting overall mood and mental well-being.

Which one is better for people with chronic conditions, walking or running?

This depends on the nature of the chronic condition. For some people, the lower impact of walking might be more comfortable and sustainable. However, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program if you have a chronic health condition. They can provide specific recommendations based on your individual health needs.

1National Library of Medicine (Paul T. Williams, PhD and  Paul D. Thompson, MD)

2National Library of Medicine (Paul T. Williams)

3National Library of Medicine (L H Colbert, J M Hootman, C A Macera)

Leave a comment

Din e-postadress kommer inte publiceras. Obligatoriska fält är märkta *