Walking and running are low-cost, easy-to-do-anywhere aerobic exercises that build cardiovascular fitness. Both activities can help you shed pounds and offer increased energy levels, better sleep, and elevated mood as positive side effects. In the longer term, they can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and cancer.
But which one should you be doing for weight loss? Is one exercise more effective than the other?
Weight Loss Basics
There is only one way to lose weight: create a calorie deficit. In other words, a person must burn more calories than they consume. Let’s say you eat 2,000 calories per day and burn 2,500 – that creates a daily deficit of 500 calories. This forces the body to utilize non-food energy sources (usually fat) to make up for the loss. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories (7 x 500) to lose one pound.
How do you create a calorie deficit? There are three ways: eat less, work out more, or both. Combining both approaches is best, but it is possible to lose weight through exercise only. Cardio exercise is especially helpful in this regard, i.e., walking and running.
Which One Burns More Calories?
Calories burnt are calories burnt. Whether you burn 500 calories on a leisurely run or brisk walk, the result is the same. However, running is more intense and is said to expend 2.5 times more energy than walking. In other words, you can burn the same amount of calories running for 20 minutes as you can walking for 50 minutes, depending on your weight and other factors. Of course, this bodes well for those with busy lifestyles – that is, if you prefer running and are healthy enough to do so. But studies also suggest that running may be the way to go for other reasons.
Another Reason to Run
One reason may be appetite suppression. It was shown in a recent study that running might be better at regulating hunger hormones like ghrelin, peptide YY, and glucagon-like peptide-1, which suppress appetite. In the two-day study, 10 walkers and 9 runners ran or walked at moderate intensity for an hour and rested for an hour. They were then invited to an attractive buffet, where they could have a meal of their choice. The results? Walkers consumed around 50 calories more than they had burned. Runners consumed almost 200 calories less than they had burned. Runners had significantly higher levels of the hormone peptide YY in their blood.
Reasons Not to Run
Running may be great for weight loss, but it is a high-impact exercise that can lead to injury, especially if you are large, elderly, over-training, or have arthritis and are prone to injuries. It strains the body’s joints considerably, particularly the ankle, knee, and hip joints. It also puts pressure on the spine. The force on your body when running can be more than twice that of walking.
Furthermore, running might not be suitable for people who are out of shape, have a smoking history, and/or have existing health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. Before you start running, seek professional medical advice.
Both walking and running (at any speed) can help you lose weight (and keep your body healthy). However, running burns more calories per minute and will get you slim faster. Running may also play a role in suppressing appetite, making it easier to shed pounds and manage body weight. Still, running isn’t for everyone, and going faster increases your risk of injury.
Ultimately, it comes down to your health and personal preference. Run if you love to run and are healthy enough to do so. If you prefer a slower pace or have health issues, walking may be best for weight loss.