Walking Or Running, What Is Healthier For You?

Ever wonder if you should be running marathons or taking long walks to stay healthy? The question is hard to answer, especially when various factors like frequency, speed, BMI, and health conditions are to be considered.

One study also found male and female runners may live a few years longer on average than non-runners. Of course, running is noticeably more demanding on the body than walking, bringing you results faster.

Some have also suggested it may be more effective for those looking to effectively shed extra weight. To reduce abdominal fat (or visceral fat), experts recommend including short bursts of running to your workout routine.

"Reducing visceral fat, even without losing weight, can improve overall health," said Dr. Carol Ewing Garber, a professor of biobehavioral studies at Columbia University Teachers College. "Running is often a big step up in intensity from walking, so it’s best to add it into your routine gradually."

But research has also shown runners may be at elevated risk of injuries compared to those who walk. People with arthritis or joint problems should seek advice from a doctor as running may worsen their condition by adding strain to the joints.

James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, pointed out too much running can actually be bad as our body cannot sustain such demanding activity beyond a certain point. 

"After 60 minutes of intense physical activity, like running, the chambers of your heart begin to stretch and overwhelm the muscle's ability to adapt," he said

On the other hand, walking is usually underestimated in terms of how much it can impact health. In one study, walking was almost equally effective as running in reducing the risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Those who want to reap more benefits from walking can also consider performing the activity on hill trails or up and down the stairs.

For obese adults, using a moderately inclined treadmill may be the best option. A 2011 study concluded "walking at a relatively slow speed up a moderate incline is a potential exercise strategy that may reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury/pathological disease while providing proper cardiovascular stimulus in obese adults." 

Clinical cardiologist Peter Schnohr recommended merging the two activities to get the best of both worlds. 

"The most favorable [regimen] is two to three running days per week, at a slow or average pace. Running every day, at a fast speed, more than 4 hours per week is not as favorable," he said

Turning up the intensity with brisk walking can also be the perfect option for those who prefer not to run. One study showed people who walked at a fast pace had a decreased risk of mortality compared to those who walked at a slow pace.