Walking vs. Running
So after a few days in the Lake District last week, I’ve definitely caught the walking ‘bug’ and I’ve decided that I’m going to make walking a regular activity when not at work. The photo above is a picture of Easedale Darn. It took a good hour and a bit of walking and uphill scrambling but when we got to the top, this was the view and it was absolutely breathtaking! I’ve always been more of a runner but whilst I was away, I really enjoyed the whole ‘being outdoors appreciating the scenery and generally just slowing life down a bit’ thing and it got me thinking about the benefits of walking. I often get asked what’s better – walking or running? And very often, the answer like so many health related questions is ‘it depends’. It depends on many things - your current fitness, your current health goals and also on what you prefer to do. So this week’s short blog is all about walking vs running.
Walking vs. Running
Both running and walking are great ways to exercise the cardiovascular system – the NHS currently recommends 150 hours of cardiovascular training a week. The cardiovascular system is the system in our bodies made up of the heart, blood and blood vessels. Having a healthy cardiovascular system is vital for good health. So when it comes to choosing between walking and running, which should you do?
Both have their pros and cons. Running for example is better in terms of weight loss because you burn more calories whilst running however, running is more high impact and can lead to over-use or other running related injuries particularly in the long term. Walking has a lot of the benefits that running offers, plus it’s low impact so is softer on the joints and you’re less likely to injury yourself but walking burns half the calories as running.
Cardiovascular training and its benefits
When it comes to cardiovascular training, there are of course more options than simply running or walking. You can swim, row, cycle, anything that raises your heart rate so that you feel a little warm and a little short of breath. There are also other types of training e.g. weights, HIIT etc. All provide amazing benefits for the body. Even though there are slight differences in terms of the calories burnt and the amount of impact the joints absorb when walking compared to running, they do share many benefits. These include:
Helps with weight loss or weight maintenance – any kind of cardiovascular training uses energy so burns extra calories
Increases endurance – the more cardiovascular training you do, the more stamina you’ll build
Strengthens the heart – training the heart keeps it strong and healthy
Helps prevent or manage a lot of health conditions – having a healthy heart and blood system helps prevent and manage a lot of health conditions
Boosts immune system – by preventing or managing other health conditions, the immune system works much more efficiently
Boosts mental health - did you know that 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week helps to reduce anxiety and depression? You don’t even need to do 30 minutes straight. You can do three ten minute bursts a day and still experience a mental health boost.
In terms of weight loss, running burns calories quicker so is seen as the more obvious choice if weight loss is your health goal. However, how many calories you burn all depends on your pace. For example, a power walker who can reach a pace of 5mph will burn more calories than a slower walker. Some power walkers can even reach paces of 7mph plus which will burn a similar amount of calories as a runner. You’ll burn even more calories if you walk up hill or on an incline as the body uses more energy on an incline.
What should I do?
Personally, I feel this comes down to what you prefer to do. There’s no particular wrong or right answer. Think about your own body, your own lifestyle – what are your health goals?
If you’d like to try running but haven’t really done it before, start off walking and gradually build up your speed until it feels more comfortable to run. You could even try a program such as Couch to 5K where you alternate between walking and running and slowly build up to running 5km.
If you hate the idea of running, or you have health conditions that make running difficult, you don’t have to do it. Try walking instead. You’re much better off doing an exercise that you enjoy doing rather than forcing yourself to do something you dislike. If you’re not very active but are able to walk, start walking gradually and build up your distances slowly.
So, to summarise, walking and running are fantastic cardiovascular training methods. They both have largely the same benefits as each other. The main differences are the amount of calories burnt and the amount of impact absorbed by the body which may or may not affect any potential walking/running related injuries. Whatever type of cardiovascular training you decide to do, it’s always a good idea to warm up and cool down. Stay hydrated and stop if you experience any pain.
Remember, it all counts towards your 150 minutes of weekly exercise. And best of all, you don’t need a gym membership or any equipment. It’s free and you can do it nearly anywhere!
If you’re not sure what would be best for you or you’re a walking/running beginner, feel free to get in touch for some advice!