Speed Walking vs. Running: Which is Better for Weight Loss Success?

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It’s a question that’s plagued exercise enthusiasts and dieters for eons: is brisk walking or running better for weight loss? The truth is, both forms of exercise provide excellent benefits–but they cater to different preferences, fitness levels, and health goals. 

In this article, we’ll compare the nuances of speed walking vs. running when it comes to weight loss and overall health, so you can make an educated decision about which is a better fit for you. But first, let’s explore the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, in general.

Health benefits of running and walking

Cardiovascular exercise, such as running or walking, is a fundamental activity for improving and maintaining your well-being. It offers a broad spectrum of benefits that cater to various health goals, including:

Weight loss and metabolic health

Cardiovascular exercise is an invaluable part of any weight loss journey. Not only does it help you burn calories while you’re actually running or walking, but it also kick-starts your metabolism, helping you burn calories during periods of rest. 

This continuous calorie burn is crucial for keeping pounds off over the long haul.

Better cardiovascular health

Regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart and improves blood circulation throughout your body. It not only lowers blood pressure, but, by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol, it further reduces your risk of coronary artery disease. 

Studies show you can drastically lower your risk of developing heart issues and extend your life expectancy by walking about 4,500 steps a day–or running just five minutes a day.

Improved mental and emotional well-being

Both running and walking also offer immense psychological benefits. Both activities release endorphins, which reduce pain and boost mood. This means cardiovascular exercise can help mitigate:

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Cognitive decline

If you’re looking to protect and improve your emotional and cognitive health, studies show that cardiovascular exercise is one of the most effective ways to do it.

Greater muscle strength, bone density, and joint health

Both walking and running help build strength and endurance in your muscles, bones, and joints. 

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Running, in particular, is associated with increased bone density, which helps reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis–a disease characterized by weak or brittle bones. 

Endurance training, like running, also strengthens your muscles in several ways. It helps them:

  • Store more energy
  • Use energy more efficiently

Furthermore, research shows that running regularly can improve the composition and hydration of your intervertebral discs, which translates to:

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Lower risk of back pain
  • Reduced risk of disc degeneration as you age
  • Better posture

Speed walking may not offer as robust muscle and joint-strengthening benefits, but it can still limit bone loss. Walking is also lower-impact and, therefore, easier on the joints. 

Longevity and reduced risk of chronic diseases

Regular cardiovascular exercise can also help you live longer–and more healthfully. Studies show it can reduce your risk of developing serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Speed walking vs. running: comparing their impact on weight loss

Walking and running can both support weight loss, but each comes with unique benefits and considerations. Here’s a comparison to help you decide which option might better suit you.

Walking: A gentler path to weight loss

  • Steady calorie burn: Walking burns calories at a steady pace. It’s an accessible way to create a caloric deficit–especially if you’re new to exercise or you have physical limitations, such as knee or foot pain.
  • Lower risk of injury: Research shows that the low-impact nature of walking–even speed-walking–makes it a safer option with a reduced risk of injury. This can make it easier to do consistently.

Running: Fast-track to a calorie deficit

  • Increased calorie burn: Running burns significantly more calories in a shorter period of time than walking. This means it can be a more efficient way to lose weight.
  • Boosts metabolism more: The intensity of running can increase your resting metabolic rate even more than speed walking.
  • Heightened risk of injury: On the down side, running comes with a higher risk of injury than walking. 

When you run, the force your body generates upon hitting the ground is about 2.5 times your body weight. In contrast, when you walk, this force is approximately 1.2 times your body weight. You’re also more likely to trip and fall during a run than a walk. 

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Deciding between a brisk walk or running for weight loss

For many people, the key to effective, sustainable weight loss involves a combination of both walking and running. By practicing both exercises, you can burn more calories while keeping your risk of injuries to a minimum.

Alternatively, you can walk at varying speeds (interval training). Studies show that walking at a variety of different speeds–faster and then slower–can help you burn more calories and fat.

Just remember to listen to your body. Starting with walking and gradually incorporating running intervals can help you build endurance while minimizing your risk of injuries.

Speed walking vs. running: The choice is yours

As you can see, both walking and running can be highly beneficial for weight loss and overall health. Walking is a safer, more accessible way to steadily burn calories, while running is a faster way to get into a caloric deficit. 

Remember: the best, most effective workout is the one you’ll stick with over time. Whether you prefer the gentle burn of a brisk walk, the intensity of a run, or a healthy mix of both, the key is to stay active and make it a regular part of your life.

Design a custom workout plan to fit your preferences and fitness level, and aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. This is a great strategy for staying healthy and vital for years to come.

References:

Is Running or Walking a Better Workout?

Walking – the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention

Self-rated walking pace and all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 50 225 walkers from 11 population British cohorts

Effect of Aerobic Exercise on Blood Pressure A Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials

Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study | NHLBI, NIH

Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies | British Journal of Sports Medicine

Related:   5 Facts for Heart Health

The Impact of Aerobic Exercise on HDL Quantity and Quality: A Narrative Review – PMC

The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review – PMC

Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults

Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia – ScienceDirect

The Beneficial Effects of Cognitive Walking Program on Improving Cognitive Function and Physical Fitness in Older Adults – PMC

Effects of Walking Speed on Total and Regional Body Fat in Healthy Postmenopausal Women – PMC

Annals Journal Club: A Meta-Analysis of Pedometer-Based Walking Interventions and Weight Loss – PMC

Flexibility Training and Functional Ability in Older Adults: A Systematic Review – PMC

Daily walking and the risk of incident functional limitation in knee OA: An observational study – PMC.

Walking is related to bone density and rates of bone loss.

Identifying the Relationship between Leisure Walking and Prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias – PMC

Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise – PMC

Cardiovascular aspects of running

Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Lung Function in Overweight and Obese Students – PMC

Regulation of Increased Blood Flow (Hyperemia) to Muscles During Exercise: A Hierarchy of Competing Physiological Needs

Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk – PMC.

Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc | Scientific Reports

High Impact Exercise Improves Bone Microstructure and Strength in Growing Rats | Scientific Reports

Adaptations to Endurance and Strength Training – PMC

Adaptations of skeletal muscle to endurance exercise and their metabolic consequences

What types of physical activities are effective in developing muscle and bone strength and balance? – PMC

The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients – PMC

The metabolic cost of changing walking speeds is significant, implies lower optimal speeds for shorter distances, and increases daily energy estimates | Biology Letters

Physical activity-related injuries in walkers and runners in the aerobics center longitudinal study

American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.

Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, web copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies everywhere educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

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