Which is Better for Weight Loss – Walking or Running?

by | Updated: October 14th, 2020 | Read time: 5 minutes

When it comes to workout routines that burn mad calories, increase fitness and can be done virtually anywhere, it’s hard to beat walking and running. All you need are proper shoes, workout clothing, and an open road (or treadmill) long enough to work up a good sweat.

But which one can help you lose the maximum pounds in the shortest time possible?

The answer is tricky.

Torso View of Two People Walking for Weight Loss on City Street | Vitacost.com/blog

Walking vs Running for Weight Loss

Generally speaking, the harder you work out, the more calories you’ll burn, thus, the more pounds you’ll lose.

The winner is clear: running. But, as we’re going to see, that’s no reason to scoff at walking.

Here, we’ll look at the downsides and benefits of running as compared to walking. The goal is to help you make the right decision.

Sound good? Let’s lace up and dig in.

Making the case for running

If you’re a 160-pound person, walking briskly for 30 minutes can help you burn roughly 150 calories. Spend the same amount of time running and you’ll shed about 350—more than double the calories.

Running burns more calories because it’s more demanding. Remember the simple rule: the harder you have to work, the more calories you burn.

That’s not the whole story.

Running triggers a higher afterburn, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, than walking.

This means that your body will keep on burning calories after you’re done exercising until your back is back to its normal resting state.

The reason? It takes energy for the body to recover from exercise. The harder you push, the more calories you’ll burn off after the exercise is completed.

And as you already know, the key to weight loss is creating a calorie deficit—you burn more calories than you take in.

A six-year survey out of the National Runner’s and Walker’s Health confirms these conclusions.

The study looked into gathered data from the association, then compared exercise levels and weight changes in roughly 30,000 runners and 15,000 walkers to determine which groups shed the most and kept it off more efficiently across this time span.

The result? Walking aided in weight loss virtually everyone in the experiment. But running was more effective at shedding the pounds.  

Just keep in mind that you have enough time on your hand to walk long enough to shed the equivalent calories, then walking should do the trick for you.

The downsides of running

As you can see, running works very well for losing weight and getting in shape.

But, just like any other sports, pounding the pavement does have some points against it.

Running is high impact. This can be harder on your body than a low-impact activity like walking.

Log enough miles and you may find yourself suffering from running injuries such as:

  • Runners’ knee
  • Shin splints
  • Stress fracture
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Iliotibial band syndrome

Studies show that runners have a 20 to 70 injury risk, while walkers have a 1 to 5 percent chance.

This is especially the case in beginner runner—when you’re most likely to find yourself in the injured part of town.

Making the case for walking

If you’re really out of shape, trying to run a 10-miler when you can’t even run for a few minutes is the recipe for disaster.

That’s why, for beginners, walking is the safest way to go as you can do it longer without risking injury or burnout.

In fact, walking is the ideal stepping stone to the running world.

What’s more?

Walking is also a great thing to do to add more activity to your day.  You can always walk to work, shopping center, or your local café.

Tips for walking for weight loss

Keep your pace at a brisk walk, or what’s known as speed walking. This is walking at 3 mph or greater.

Your heart and breathing rate should increase during speed walking—or else, you’re not pushing your body hard enough. This helps shed more calories than walking at an easy pace.

Also, do it regularly, walk four to five times per week, and add in intervals and hills.

As a rule, shoot for 10,000 steps per day. This is roughly 5 miles of walking.

You can also walk uphill during your off days. This helps you to break out the routine, increase your calorie burn, and build more strength and endurance.

So how can you increase your daily step count? Simple. Do the following:

  • Park further away from your office, shop or school then walk all the way.
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator and elevator.
  • Walk during your lunch break
  • Take regular walking breaks during work—ideally every hour.
  • Walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite show

What’s more?

Remember to keep good form. Walk tall so that you’re looking ahead at all times.

This not only helps feel more comfortable but also lengthens your stride and improves your speed. Also, keep your core engaged and your back straight.

Still, want more?

You can throw in some bodyweight exercises if you want more challenge. This not only helps increase your calorie burn but also build strength and improve mobility. Good exercises include:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Triceps dips
  • Burpees
  • Sit-ups

The takeaway

So when trying to lose weight, should you walk or run?

When it comes to choosing between running or walking, pick what works best with your fitness level, goals and lifestyle—then stick with it.

I’d recommend that you focus less on the calories and more on how better you feel afterward.

As already explained, running works very well for losing weight fast, but walking is also a great way to ease into exercise—regardless of your current fitness and health status.

If you’re really out of shape and starting from the couch, walking should be your exercise of choice.  As you get fitter, start running by introducing a few jogging intervals into your walks.

Once you get used to it, spend more time running while taking fewer walking breaks until you can run straight for 30 minutes without panting for air.

What’s more?

Be kind to yourself. Remember that everyone’s different and responds differently to exercise depending on many factors such as your age, body composition, fitness level, etc.

So even though you and your best friend are walking for one hour each day, your result will not be the same.

Don’t forget your diet

I can’t stress this enough, but diet is where the weight loss fight is either won or lost.

If your main goal is to lose weight, chances are neither walking nor running alone is going to help you reach your goal. Exercise is just one half—the other being your diet.