Walking and running are the most popular physical activities among American adults, and their comparative benefits have been hotly debated over the years. The answer to which work out you should undertake lies in what you hope to achieve.
In each case, consistency is a factor. Whether you pursue improved health through walking or running, a quality home treadmill can keep you moving, night or day and rain or shine.
Running Is Your Weight-loss Friend
If sheer weight loss is your goal, studies indicate running beats walking hands-down, a finding in keeping with the old adage “No pain, no gain.”
The numbers tell the story.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley compared running vs. walking, following 32,215 runners and 15,237 walkers over 6 years. At the start of the study, participants shared information like their weight, waist circumference, diet and the typical amount of miles they logged in a week.
They found that from start to finish, runners had thinner frames than walkers, results published in 2013 in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
This difference was particularly marked among participants 55 and older. Runners in this age group had typically slowed over the years, running less than they once had. They hardly beat walkers in terms of sheer calories burned. And yet, their waists were significantly smaller and their body mass indexes noticeably lower.
Results like these beg the question: Why does running keep people trimmer than walking?
The Berkeley study doesn’t provide a clear explanation, but there are a number of hypothesis as to why people who pound the pavement tend to be slimmer than those who pace it.
Running May Inhibit Your Appetite
According to a 2012 study, the trick to staying skinny is not moving faster but eating less.
Nine expert female runners and 10 dedicated female walkers reported twice to the exercise physiology lab at the University of Wyoming. In the first session, the women spent an hour running or walking on a treadmill. On the second occasion they rested for an hour. Researchers busied themselves during both meetings, monitoring energy expenditure and drawing blood to check for levels of hormones associated with appetite.
Following the lab hours, the women were turned loose in a well-stocked buffet. The walkers demonstrated a greater appetite, consuming some 50 calories more than they burned during an hour on the treadmill. The runners, by contrast, ate sparingly, consuming almost 200 calories less than those they burned while speeding on the treadmill.
There was a physical difference between the prolific and picky eaters. After exercise, runners showed elevated blood levels of peptide YY, a hormone known to suppress appetite. The walkers didn’t demonstrate increased peptide YY levels, which led to more voracious appetites.
This study provides compelling evidence that running is an appetite suppressant. That’s a reason to run, not walk, at the chance of losing weight!
Walking Supports Heart Health
In some areas, however, walking matches and even outperforms when it comes to maintaining optimal health.
It should come as little surprise that walkers and runners show a significant reduction in the risk of developing heart disease as opposed to their more sedentary peers.
What’s astonishing, however, are the findings of a 2013 Berkeley study. Walkers showed a greater reduction in the risk of heart disease than runners, 9 percent compared to 4.5 percent. It’s ample reason to “extoll the stroll.”
Keep in mind, however, that statistics can be misleading. It’s plausible that people who embarked on a walking program were more unhealthy at the start of the study than those who chose to don running shoes.
Walking Is Gentler On Your Body
Running has many advantages over walking, including a thinner body, but the potential for getting hurt—Achilles tendon injury, plantar fasciitis, tibial stress syndrome, etc. —is far greater among runners. Whether the risk is worth the weight-loss is up to you.
One thing is clear. Whether you walk or run— and whether you hit the streets or head for your home treadmill—you’ll look and feel better.