Which is Better for Health:  Running or Walking?

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Which is Better for Health:  Running or Walking?Early summer is an ideal season for taking your workout outside where you can breathe in fresh air, soak up Vitamin D from the sun and enjoy green space.  Millions of people take to city parks, country trails and high school tracks to enjoy a walk or run. These are the most popular physical activities for American adults and new studies involving surveys of runners and walkers reveal the comparative benefits of both. Which is more effective for weight control, for maintaining good health and reducing your risk of chronic disease?

The Osteoporosis Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know?Running is Better for Weight Control

  • Comparing data from 15,237 walkers and 32,215 runners, the National Runners and Walkers Health Study found that runners were thinner than walkers at the beginning of the study and up to six years later.
  • Especially notable for aging adults, runners over age 55 maintained their body mass and waist circumferences better than their age-matched walkers.
  • Even when energy expenditure is matched (walkers burning the same number of calories in a week as runners), runners control their weight better over the long term.

Few walkers, however, match the energy expenditure of runners.  According to Dr. Paul T. Williams, the lead author of the studies, to burn the same calories walking as running, you would have to walk one and a half times as far, which takes about twice as long.

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Walking is Better for Reducing Risk of Disease

  • Both walkers and runners have a lower risk of developing age-related cataracts compared with inactive people.
  • The runners had far less risk of high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes and heart disease than their sedentary peers. But walkers who expend the same amount of energy per day as runners reduced their risk of heart disease by more than twice the percent of runners.

Now there’s no need to pick either one or the other type of activity. With interval training you can combine the benefits of both. To ramp up your walking workout, and burn extra calories, add intervals of increased speed or jogging, if appropriate.  Try this easy 30-minute routine:  walk moderately for 3 minutes, then pick up the pace for 3 minutes and repeat 5 times. It adds life into your routine and may also add years to your life!


  • Joan Pagano

    Joan Pagano has specialized in strength training for women since 1988 – training, teaching, and writing books on the subject, including Strength Training Exercises for Women (DK, 2014). When the health benefits of strength training started making headlines in the 1990s, and in particular how weight training could protect the bones and prevent osteoporosis, it was a natural segue for her. At that time, Joan was developing and delivering fitness training guidelines for osteoporosis to national audiences of exercise professionals. Currently Joan is recognized by the industry as a leading authority on exercise program design for osteoporosis. She is certified as an Exercise Physiologist by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and is on the Ambassadors Leadership Council for the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Visit Joan at: www.joanpaganofitness.com/

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