We weigh the pros and cons of both forms of cardio
People start running for a number of reasons: Some do it to boost energy, while others use it as stress relief. Some try to tone, while others try to make a love connection with the person on the next treadmill. Whatever your reason, running comes with a host of benefits, including keeping your heart healthy, improving your mood, and fighting off sickness.
There is also growing research that suggests running may be best for weight loss. You may already know people expend 2.5 times more energy running than they do walking, whether on the track or the treadmill. That means a 160-pound person running eight miles per hour would burn more than 800 calories per hour compared to about 300 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour.
Another study found that even when equal amounts of energy were expended (with walkers spending more time exercising), runners still lost more weight.
Running also may regulate appetite hormones better than walking. In one study, after running or walking, participants were invited to a buffet. Walkers ate about 50 calories more than they had burned and runners ate nearly 200 calories fewer than they’d burned. Researchers believe this is linked to runners’ increased levels of the hormone peptide YY, which may suppress appetite.
But running isn’t the only path to good health.
Aside from weight loss, walking has its own positive aspects. Researchers looked at data from the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study and found people who expended the same amount of calories saw many of the same health benefits. In both studies, participants saw a reduced risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and better cardiovascular health—regardless of whether they were walking or running.
Walking puts less stress on the body, while running increases the risk for injuries like runner’s knee, hamstring strains, and shin splits.
To make a walking workout more effective, increase the incline on the treadmill. Research shows walking at a slow speed (1.7 miles per hour) on a treadmill at a six-degree incline can be a great weight management strategy for obese individuals. Walking at a livelier pace helps. One study found speed walkers had a decreased risk of mortality over their slower counterparts.
The takeaway: Regular cardio at any speed is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.