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Running vs. Walking: Which Is Healthier?

03-07-2016

Running vs. Walking: Which Is Healthier?

It’s a debate that’s centuries old: is running or walking better for your health?

While both running and walking have a plethora of benefits—increased blood flow; reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes; and improved cardiovascular health—they each have pros and cons, too. Defining your goals will help you decide if running or walking is better for you.

  • Runner’s knee and other ailments
    "Walking is great if your ultimate goal is general overall health plus quality and longevity of life,” says Debbie Bellenger, CaroMont’s Wellness Program Director. There’s no denying that running is harder on your body than walking, from cardiac effort to impact on your joints and bones. This can result in injuries like runner’s knee, a condition of irritation where the kneecap rests on the thighbone and causes pain.
  • Limits
    The key to any exercise regimenis appropriate recovery. Whether you’ve been training for a 5K—like CaroMont’s Community Challenge coming up in May—to a full marathon, running or walking, it’s important to allow your body sufficient time to recover after race day to avoid any long-term risks.Running or walking is better for your health than doing neither, whatever your health goals are. Moderate exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. But “moderate” is a key word: don’t overdo it. Regularly pushing your body well beyond its limits can result in injury and illness, regardless of your pace.
  • Weight loss
    Studies show that runners burn 2.5 times more calories than walkers given the same amount of time. But walkers often don’t tire as easily, enabling them to exercise for longer stretches, and the increased duration may help make up for any caloric deficits. On the other hand, some studies suggest running can additionally suppress appetite. A large study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., concluded that if weight loss is your No. 1 goal, running (combined with a healthy diet) is the best way to go.
  • Social time
    Running and walking are both great activities to do with friends and family. Walking naturally allows for a more relaxed social time. However, running with a friend can be a great bonding experience and can provide the perfect pick-me-up when you’re in need of some extra motivation to stay on track.
  • Enjoying the great outdoors
    Whether you prefer a brisk jog or a leisurely stroll, these exercises are great ways to get outside and get some fresh air.Consider switching up your route to visit different parks, trails or areas around town for a change in scenery.
  • Reducing chronic disease risk
    Studies have shown that both walking and running can help youreduce your overall risk for a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes or even some forms of cancer. If you are currently battling a chronic disease, exercise can provide important health benefits for you as well. However, it is important to talk to your doctor first about what exercises are safe and any precautions you should take.

The bottom line? Running and walking are two excellent ways to stay in shape, but the benefits will differ from person to person. If overall health is top of your priorities list, a brisk, daily walk is a great way to achieve your goals. If weight loss is your primary concern, but you’re new to running, Couch to 5K is a great nine-week training program that empowers even the most novice athletes to walk or run a race, starting with a gentle introduction to get the body moving. And the good news is there’s plenty of time to begin your training plan ahead of CaroMont’s Community Challenge on May 14. There’s even group training to keep you inspired and motivated to move forward.

For more information about the CaroMont Community Challenge, visit www.caromontcommunitychallenge.com or contact Meghan Marr at meghan.marr@caromonthealth.org.