Let’s face it, not all of us were meant to run marathons or beat that 10-minute mile. But does that mean that we can’t get the same benefits as runners while walking?

An article published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that running was no better than walking when it came to prevention of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Yes, in terms of calories burned, running beats walking. But let’s look closer at those numbers. An article at Runner’s World looked at 15 male and 15 female college students with an average weight of 156 pounds. They compared two runs: a 10-minute mile while running versus walking a mile in an average of about 18 minutes. Afterwards participants sat for 30 minutes and waited for their metabolic rate to return to normal. Here is what researchers found.

Calories per mile burned:

  • Walking -88.9

  • Running -112.5

Not a huge difference, just 23.6 calories. So what does this mean? Walking and running are both effective cardio exercises that may improve your health.

A study by the American Heart Association looked at data from runners and walkers aged from 18 to 80 years old, and looked at their health problems over a period of six years. Turns out the runners lowered their risk of heart disease by 4.5 percent while the walker lowered theirs by 9.3 percent.

This doesn’t mean you can take a leisurely after-dinner stroll and hope to reap the same benefits as a run. While walking you need to expend just as much energy as running would.

Walking Tips

  • Move it. Find a brisk pace and stick to it.

  • Keep going. You’ll have to walk longer to burn calories comparable to a run.

  • Go the distance. Log your walking times, and create goals for time and distance.

For those with joint pain, running sometimes isn’t an option. Running is a high-impact sport, where bouncing off the ground can wear on your joints over time. There are precautions you can take to ensure your get the most out of your run.

Running Tips

  • Stick to trails. Avoid running on pavement. Softer surfaces like a track or trail will reduce the impact on your joints and feet.

  • Start slow. Don’t hit the ground running, literally. Slowly increase your time and intensity as your body gets in better shape.

  • Rest. Listen to your body, if you ran hard the day before and are feeling stiff, try a different exercise routine. Give your body time to recover.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if you’re running, jogging or walking. As long as you're working your best you’re going to benefit. You’ve got to work for those benefits, so lace up those shoes and get out there.

To learn more about this topic:
Basic Guidelines for Aerobic Exercise
How Morning Exercise Benefits Diabetes
Exercises to Avoid with Diabetes