How to Choose Between Walking and Running for Your Workout

Three Parts:Choosing to Run for Aerobic ExerciseDeciding to Walk over Going for a RunMaintaining a Balanced Exercise Routine

There are a wide variety of health benefits associated with running and walking. If you are trying to choose between the two, it can be a difficult decision. Many people say running is "better" because you burn more calories and work your heart at a higher level. However, it's often said that walking is one of the best forms of exercise since it's easier on your joints while providing many of the same benefits as running. To help you decide which exercise is best for you, consider your current lifestyle, what type of exercise you like best and your health. That way, you'll be able to pick the safest and most enjoyable form of exercise.

Part 1
Choosing to Run for Aerobic Exercise

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    Talk to your doctor about running. Since running is a higher intensity exercise and can be harder on your joints, its important to talk to your doctor first. She or he can help you decide whether or not running is appropriate for you.
    • Although running is generally considered a great form of cardiovascular exercise, it might not be appropriate for all people.
    • If you have arthritis, a degenerative joint disease or a chronic cardiac problem, running might not be something your physician wants to you do on a regular basis.
    • Talk to your doctor about your choice of whether to run or walk as exercise. Ask him or her if there is anything you should consider when making your decision. Or ask your physician if he or she thinks walking or running would be more appropriate for you.
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    Plan to run if you want to improve your aerobic endurance levels. If you want to improve your overall endurance and aerobic capability, you might want to consider choosing to go for a run over walking. Moderate to high intensity cardio activities help improve your endurance more dramatically than walking.[1]
    • When you do cardiovascular exercise, your body pumps more blood through your heart to help deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and lungs. Over time, your heart adjusts to this larger volume of blood and is able to pump more blood out per beat.
    • Your heart becomes very efficient at pumping blood and your heart rate will eventually slow down as your heart's endurance improves over time.
    • If you want to improve your endurance and stamina (for example, doing any type of aerobic exercise at a faster pace or longer time) consider running over walking. It'll help your heart become more efficient and better able to push you through difficult cardio routines.
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    Go for a run to help increase your daily calorie burn. Another reason you may be considering going for a run is that you want to up your calorie burn during exercise. If this is the case, you might want to choose running.
    • It's commonly believed that running a mile and walking a mile ends up burning the same amount of calories. Although the amounts are close, running does in fact burn more calories.[2]
    • When you're running, your body has to expend more energy to propel your body forward and then absorb the shock of your legs and feet hitting the ground. Walking does not require the same amount of energy.
    • So if calories is your goal, go for a run. But don't forget about the total time you spend running. You still want to aim for a decent amount of time per run. Plan to run for at least 20-30 minutes and do not only use distance as a measure.
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    Choose running if you want to lose weight. Running does burn more calories than walking. But that's not the only reason that running seems to be the better choice when it comes to weight loss.
    • If weight loss is your goal, running may be able to aid your efforts. For starters, it burns more calories per mile. The more calories you burn during exercise, could mean quicker weight loss.
    • In addition, many studies have shown that in comparison, runners are typically thinner and have an easier time maintaining a lower body weight compared to those who only walked.[3]
    • Also, studies have shown that running helps suppress appetite more than walking which may help you decrease your total calorie consumption during the day.
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    Plan to run if you're short on time. Another reason you may want to choose to go for a run over a walk, is if you have an overly busy schedule.
    • If you have a long commute, long work hours, are juggling work and school or have a busy family life, you may not have a lot of time to dedicate for a workout everyday.
    • You can torch calories more quickly by fitting in a quick 2 mile run. Walking 2 miles will most likely take twice as long as doing a quick 2 mile run.
    • Even if you have 20 minutes, you can fit in a quick run. You will burn more calories in that 20 minutes, compared to walking during that 20 minutes.

Part 2
Deciding to Walk over Going for a Run

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    Choose walking if you have bad joints. One very common reason that people choose to walk is if they have bad joints. Whether you have arthritis or just feel more stiff, going for a walk may be better than going for a run.
    • Walking is considered a low intensity and low impact exercise. This makes it perfect for those with bad joints or chronic joint pain.[4]
    • Studies have shown that walking on a regular basis can actually help relieve and reduce pain in your joints over time.
    • If you have chronic joint pain - especially in your hips, knees or feet - consider choosing to go for a walk. It'll be a lot easier and less painful compared for running.
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    Take a walk if you need to take a break from higher intensity activities. Another great reason to choose walking instead of running is if you need a break from exercise. Everyone needs a rest day and you can go for a walk on these days.
    • If you typically participate in moderate to high intensity aerobic activities during the week, you'll need to take some time off in between to allow your body to relax and recover.
    • Studies have shown that your overall performance (including endurance and strength) increases with regular rest days.[5]
    • Instead of being totally inactive on your rest days, you can safely do a leisurely walk. This helps you stay active, but doesn't stress your body the same as other activities like running.
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    Choose walking if you're injured. If you've injured yourself, you probably will be limited on what type and amount of activity you can do. However, depending on your injury you may still be able to walk for exercise.
    • If you've injured yourself - like pulling a hamstring or straining your lower back - you might be restricted on the type and amount of activity you can do.[6]
    • For example, if you've injured your back, running is not recommended. The pounding on the pavement can exacerbate symptoms.
    • Walking is a more appropriate exercise since its a low impact exercise. It allows you to stay active even if you've got some mild injuries.
    • If you're not feeling all that well, but still want to be active, a short walk is OK while doing a run may expend too much energy.
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    Go for a walk if you need to regulate your heart rate. A less common reason you may need to choose walking is if you have certain health conditions or issues. Higher intensity exercise is not appropriate for everyone.
    • If you have uncontrolled or difficult to control asthma, increasing your heart rate and breathing level may not be safe for you.
    • It may also be recommended that you avoid running if you're pregnant. Many OB/GYNs recommend keeping your heart rate at a low to moderate level which you can't do easily while running.[7]
    • If you aren't sure if running is safe for you, walk until you get clearance from ap physician to run.
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    Stick to walking if you enjoy it more than running. A very simple reason to choose walking over running is if you like it better. It's better to walk more regularly than run just occasionally.
    • Since running does burn more calories than walking and may be better for weight loss, many people think that running, in general, is better for you than walking.
    • However, the best exercise for you is the one you actually enjoy the best and are most likely going to be consistent with over time.
    • If you truly don't enjoy running or find it difficult to stay consistent, go for a walk instead.

Part 3
Maintaining a Balanced Exercise Routine

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    Include a variety of cardiovascular exercises. If you're able to run and walk without an issues, consider doing a combination of both types of exercises. Sometimes a combination is the best choice.
    • One benefit of including both running and walking during the week is that you can get some of the cardiovascular benefits of running but allow your body to rest with walking.
    • Also, doing a variety of cardiovascular exercises during the week gives different muscle groups and joints time off. You're not risking overuse injuries by stressing the same areas of the body each day.
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    Aim to meet the minimum amount of aerobic activity each week. Regardless of whether you choose to run or to walk, it's important to meet the minimum weekly guidelines for aerobic activity.
    • Health professionals recommend that you include at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity each week.[8]
    • Aim for moderate intensity activities in addition to doing each activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
    • In addition to running and walking you can do a spin class, dance class, or go hiking as aerobic activity.
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    Include strength training exercises into your routine. Similar to cardiovascular activity, you also need to include the recommended amount of strength training each week.
    • In addition to 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity, you also need to include 1-2 days of strength training each week.[9]
    • When you're doing strength training exercises, aim to workout for at least 20 minutes per session and work every major muscle group in your body.
    • Exercises you can try include: lifting free weights, pilates, yoga or body weight exercises.
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    Take 1-2 days rest days each week. Whether you choose to walk on your rest days, its still important to regularly schedule in 1-2 rest days each week.
    • Rest days are equally important to your overall fitness performance as regular cardio and strength training.
    • It's during rest and recovery that your muscles increase in size, strength and your endurance improves.
    • In general, most people need about 1-2 days of rest each week. You can choose to do a leisurely walk, do restorative yoga or go for a bike ride.


  • The bottom line when choosing between running or walking should be what exercise you like to do best and which is safest for you.
  • If you're unsure whether or not walking or running would be better, consider talking to your doctor about which exercise is best for your health.
  • If you can and want to, do a combination of running and walking throughout the week so you get the best of both worlds.

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Categories: Walking for Fitness | Running for Fitness