Should You Run or Walk?

(Photo source)

Yesterday, I woke up early for my normal Tuesday run. Blah – it was raining! And it wasn’t even that light, sprinkly rain, it was a hard, steady rain. I usually don’t have a problem with running in very light rain, especially if it’s warm outside. But a hard rain leaves me feeling like a drowned rat – hence, I try to avoid it. As a result, I post-poned my run for Wednesday, which is my normal day off. But, instead of just going back to bed (I was fully dressed in my running gear), I went downstairs to walk on the treadmill. I emphasize WALK since I knew I was trading my Tuesday running day for Wednesday. Besides, running on the treadmill in the summer just…well, sucks!

As I was walking, I got to thinking about how some people are walkers, while others are runners. Walking is a very low-intensity, low impact sport that doesn’t require much practice. On the contrary, running is a high-intensity, high-impact exercise that often requires consistent training. Both exercises are very good for you, especially for cardiovascular benefits. So, why would a person – like me – choose to walk over running when walking just seems so much easier?

For many people, including yours truly, whether to walk or run really comes down to time and calories. Running is one of the fastest and most efficient ways for you to burn calories and lose weight. However, there has been some debate about this in recent years – let’s take a look…

Old School Rules: For decades, the old school of thought was that a person would burn the same amount of calories in one mile, whether that person walked or ran the distance. It would just take the runner half the time to burn those calories.

New School Rules: New research indicates that running actually does burn more calories per mile than walking. In 2004, researchers from Syracuse University found that both women and men burned 2x as many calories when they ran a mile compared with when they walked the same distance. But why? Well, unlike walking, running produces a more intense impact on our bodies. When running, we are completely airborne in between strides. The impact of our foot hitting the ground puts a tremendous amount of force on our feet and our legs. The greater force we place on our bodies the more calories we need to expend to absorb the force.

Exception to the Rules: Research also noted that higher intensity walking (such as race walking at speeds of 5.0 mph or higher) actually burned the same amount of calories as running. But, unless you’re walking at very high speeds, it appears that running burns twice the amount of calories in half the time.

Run or Walk?

If you’re on the fence about whether to walk or run, consider your goals and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I running/walking for weight loss?
  • How much time can I dedicate to exercise?

Why Run? If you’re pressed for time or want to maximize calorie burning, then give running a try. After all, if you only have 30 minutes a day to spare for exercise, 30 minutes of running will burn significantly more calories than 30 minutes of walking, which can mean losing weight faster.

Why Walk? If you’re not into high-intensity exercise and time isn’t an issue, then walking may be a better choice for you. Keep in mind that walking can still help you lose weight slowly and it is a great, low impact way to improve or maintain your cardiovascular fitness.

Whether you choose to walk or run, the most important thing is to find an exercise that you like and that you will do consistently each week.

(Please note: this has been adapted from my Bookieboo post from earlier this year!)


  1. This is a great post. I used to be a ‘walker’ – my body did not like running. I became lean from walking, and I enjoyed it, easy on the joints. It was time consuming – I would walk 1 hour between 4.0-4.4 and incline 1%-5%,

    But, then that got boring and I started running. I am no longer lean, but do weigh the same. I have definitely bulked up in muscle, which is fine. I still walk on my ‘off’ days. It’s all about preference, and as you said, time and your fitness level.

  2. Hi Julie! I am surprised that you are no longer “lean”. Running definitely adds muscle, but you should still be able to keep your lean physique. I find that walking is a bit boring too, unless I have someone else to walk with to pass the time!

  3. I’m a runner who LOVES to walk. Or….I started out as a walker and now LOVE to run. I lost the bulk of my weight (127 pounds and counting) by walking and then transitioned to running. I reconnected with my love of walking after a recent running injury. Now I’m back up and running but continue to walk for pleasure. (which falsely implies I don’t run for pleasure)

    All of that is just boils down to the fact that I consider myself BOTH a runner and a walker. I ENJOY both activites and have derived weight loss/health benefits from each. I’ve found I don’t have to choose between the two, there is room in my life for both!

  4. I am so glad you posted this. I have trying to find proven facts and information. I am heavy and I’m trying to lose weight, I’ve lost 30lbs already. I was always on the Eliptical, I dreaded the treadmill. Some time has passed and I want to lsoe these last 30lbs. I have been trying to be consistant with my workouts, which I’m making a schedule for myself to get back on track. I do notice that I huge difference in my muscles after a run or a walk up hill. I have not braved jogging/running out doors just yet. I’ve been running on the treadmill at my mother’s little workout room. I have a gym membership, but I use other equipment there and if I get on the treadmill I walk, unless there aren’t that many people there. lol.

    Anyway, I enjoy running. I walk/run, during my workout. When I walk, I make sure the treadmill is at a high incline, 6 and up…I start out at 2. I would love to just be consistant so that I can one day be a actual RUNNER! Once I hit my goal, I’m sure I will be. 🙂

    I love your blog.

  5. I love your website and blog. I stumbled upon your website and am in desperate need of motivation! I lost 50 lbs. when I was 20. I am now 17 years older and 3 kids later, with back to my 50 lbs heavier. I used to be a HUGE walker who then turned into a runner. I am now working full-time and short on time. I have 1/2 hour a morning to squeeze in a work-out any suggestions on getting moving towards back into running for 1/2 hour.

    What is your motivation? I even have a gym membership and a treadmill in my basement! 5 a.m. just seems soo early! OYH!

    I am also an instant gratification person. If I don’t see results in a few weeks I get very down on myself and just give up.

    I appreciate any feedback!


    • Tonja – If you’re looking to lose weight, running is a great way to do that. As long as your approved to run/exercise by a doctor, I would alternate walking/running to start, then gradually build up to all running. Because you only have 30 minutes a day (which is not bad considering those are the US recommendations for exercise), you’ll need to maximize your time. When you eventually start running the full 30 minutes, try doing internals (alternate slower running with fast running) and add some hills/inclines. This will help you burn more calories. And don’t forget about weight training! Weight training is a great add-on to running and helps speed up weight loss. Weight training can be done anytime – you could squeeze it in a lunch hour or while you’re watching your favorite show. Keep in mind that not all weight is lost on exercise alone. You can reduce your calorie intake by as much as 500 calories a day (but never drop below 1,200 calories a day) to lose 1 pound a week. Adding exercise to that only speeds up the weight loss. As for my motivation – I love the way I feel and how I look in my clothes – those things are great motivation for me. Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away, my sister worked out/ran for months before seeing real results – now she looks great!