I know what you are thinking. Derica, isn’t the saying, “Run, don’t walk!?” Well, yes, but hear me out. This particular article isn’t some contrived message to urge you to action. My intent here is to show the benefits of walking verses the benefits of running as an exercise. I was simply trying to be clever with my catchy naming convention. More than likely that failed. My bad! Please don’t let my silliness get in the way of some important research as to why walking might be a better choice for you.
There are a whole slew of articles, blog posts, research studies and the like comparing walking vs running. The question of “is walking better than running?” is simply too simplistic. You have to ask yourself first, what is your goal in adding either walking or running to your weekly routine?
For example, if weight loss is your primary objective then this Health Line article: https://www.healthline.com/health/walking-vs-running suggests that running might be the best choice. Running is a better alternative due to burning nearly double the number of calories as walking. However, many who may prioritize weight loss may also be suffering from an overall lack of health and mobility. In that case, walking is a better choice due to being accessible for nearly all fitness levels.
Both running and walking fall into the cardiovascular category of exercise. “Cardio” has many benefits such as, maintaining or losing weight, increasing stamina, boosting immune system, preventing or managing many chronic conditions, strengthening your heart, extending your life and improving your mood! A study entitled, Exercise for Mental Health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/ found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week reduces anxiety and depression. You don’t even have to perform those 30 minutes all at once. You can split your activity into three sets of 10 minutes each and receive the same benefit.
As walking and running are similar but not equal, a study cited in the article by The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/05/brisk-walk-healthier-running-scientists talks about evening the field when comparing walking vs running in regard to heart health. Brisk walking compared to running when the energy expenditure of both activities were balanced out, running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%. Calorie for calorie, similar results where shown in favor of walking for lowering risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Furthermore, this article on Treehugger: https://www.treehugger.com/ways-walking-is-better-than-running-4861967 points out that researchers found that 60% of runners attending the 2005 Boston Marathon had elevated levels of a protein that can lead to cardiovascular damage. An additional 40% developed signs of damage to heart muscle cells as well.
Not all walking is the same. What do I mean by this? You can change up the caloric effectiveness of your walking regimen by trying speed walking, or walking uphill. This will increase the resistance your body has to work through thus upping your caloric usage. Avoid adding extra weight to ankles or wrists. Sure those Velcro weights might seem convenient, but adding weight at those points increases stress on your ankles, shins, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, neck and back. If you really enjoy “stuff” then walking poles are a much better choice. They increase the calories you burn while reducing stress on joints. With these additions you can burn as many calories as you would running without the risks of high-impact exercise. The same Health Line article continues to point out that walkers have an approximate 1 to 5 percent injury risk, while runners have a 20 to 70 percent chance.
Another benefit of walking over running is that it can be used as a social event. This article on Very Well Fit: https://www.verywellfit.com/how-walking-is-better-than-running-3432517 points out how it is much easier to socialize while walking rather than running. Also, due to the lower impact, one can easily use a lunch break at work to take a quick walk without worrying about getting too sweaty to continue working afterward. This ease of access that walking allows makes it an easier exercise to fit in without the limitation of time, space, equipment and other requirements that running often requires.
This article in Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/walking-vs-running#summary stresses many of the views of the previous articles and summarizes that both walking and running are appropriate forms of exercise. Both can help people maintain a moderate weight and improve not only their heart but mental health. Basically it depends on the goals and limitations of the individual on what works best. For me, it is walking. What works for you?