The Benefits and Risks of Walking Versus Running
by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
Your coworker swears by her morning runs. Your neighbor claims to get all the exercise she needs by walking. So is one better than the other? The answer is a personal one. Both running and walking, when done on a regular basis, provide a full array of health benefits, including:
The key is determining which activity is best for you.
Calorie Expenditure TOP
The first question many people ask when considering a new exercise is: How many calories does it burn? The number of calories you burn while running or walking will depend on your weight, how long you exercise for, and activity intensity. The faster your speed, the more calories you burn, giving running the calorie-burning edge over walking.
Risk of Injury TOP
There is a lower risk of injury with walking than running. One study found that walkers were less likely to get injured than runners. The risk of injury increases with intensity and duration if you are not properly conditioned.
You can reduce your risk of running-related injury by following these tips.
Fitting It Into Your Schedule TOP
Walking can easily be spread out over the course of a day and generally does not require special clothing other than good shoes. Running, on the other hand, requires proper footwear, a complete change of clothes, and a post-workout shower, so it makes more sense to do it over 1 block of time during the day.
Walking Is More Suitable for Some TOP
People who have not exercised regularly in a long time may want to begin with walking and then progress to running. Unlike running, walking is also suitable—and beneficial—for people with certain medical conditions or joint replacements.
Getting a Complete Workout TOP
To get the most out of your workout, try adding strengthening and stretching exercises. Strength training the upper body and torso is important since they do not get much of a workout during regular running or walking. Strength training your lower body is also important because it will enhance your walking and running performance. Regular stretching will help loosen up your muscles.
The Choice That’s Best for You TOP
Remember, if you have a doctor’s clearance to run or walk, choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to which activity you prefer. Mixing them up can also be a great way to add variety and flexibility to your exercise schedule.
American College of Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
Public Health Agency of Canada
Colbert LH, Hootman JM, Macera CA. Physical activity-related injuries in walkers and runners in the aerobics center longitudinal study. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2000; 10(4):259-263.
Energy expenditure in different modes of exercise. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at:
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Accessed January 21, 2016.
Suter E, Marti B, Gutzwiller F. Jogging or walking—comparison of health effects. Annals of Epidemiology. 1994; 4(5):375-381.
Tips for a safe running program. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2011. Accessed January 21, 2016.
Wilkin LD, Cheryl A, et al. Energy expenditure comparison between walking and running in average fitness individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(4):1039-44.
Last reviewed January 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/17/2014
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