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Walking versus Running
Which burns more calories?

Running is the best bet for max calorie burning.

If you walk as a form of exercise, you may not be getting as much benefit as you think.

Let's compare two people. Both take a four-mile route for exercise. One person runs the course, the other person walks. Since they're both going the same distance, most people believe they're getting the same benefit. But they aren't; and it's all because of how our bodies work.

into the air. It takes a lot of energy to get anywhere because instead of just moving ahead, we're also jumping up from one foot to the other. Meanwhile, when we walk, one foot is always in contact with the ground. Instead of wasting energy hopping around, we can direct it into simply moving forward.

Even though a runner and a walker may both cover the same distance, the runner will burn up to twice the calories, because of all that bouncing up and down. But there is an exception to that rule.

Walking FAST is less efficient than running as a way to move quickly. So as you increase your walking speed, the calories you burn over that four-mile route steadily increase. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physics Fitness titled, "Energy expenditure during walking and jogging." calculated the magic number to be about 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour. Speed walkers who move at the rate of five miles an hour or faster, will burn at least as many calories as a runner moving at the same pace.

There's another benefit of running versus walking and that's for bone health. In a 2009 review published in Sports Medicine called, "Exercise and bone mass in adults." the authors concluded that, "Exercise involving high impacts, even a relatively small amount, appears to be the most efficient for enhancing bone mass..."

When you walk, one foot always remains on the ground and the impact of each step is lower. When you run, you're bouncing from one foot to the other creating dramatically higher impacts and as a result building more bone mass.

 

Now the question becomes, how many calories are we actually burning. The best way to calculate that is with a heart rate monitor. By inputting your specifics, they can give an amazingly accurate number at the end of each session. To figure things out manually, here's a formula that can give you a rough idea.

(This formula is adapted from "Energy expenditure of walking and running: comparison with prediction equations." published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and written by: Hall C., Figueroa A., Fernhall B. and Kanaley J.A.)

Running Calories Burned Per Mile = 
Your Weight in Pounds x .75
Walking Calories Burned Per Mile = 
Your Weight in Pounds x .53

There are some obvious limitations in those formulas. The most glaring is the speed at which you're running. Faster runners often have longer strides. The longer each step is, the more force your body feels as it impacts the ground. The greater the impact, the more energy you must use to propel yourself back in the air again for your next step.

To figure that out properly would require knowing precisely how many steps you're taking, over what time, while figuring in things like hills or other obstacles. For a truly accurate number, save yourself the math and get a heart rate monitor.

The faster you move, the more benefit you'll get. Researchers at the University of Kentucky conducted a study to figure out the ideal pace you should try to set as a minimum. They calculated that, "Promoting a step rate of 100 step[s] [per]minute may serve as a practical public health recommendation to exercise at moderate intensity."

If you're strictly concerned about maximum calorie burn, walking is just a start. Walking at the rate of at least 100 steps per minute is better. Speed walking is even better still and running is the best.

SPECIAL NOTE:

Below are links to abstracts of the studies we mentioned above. Click on the study title and an Adobe PDF file will open showing the information as it appeared in PubMed.com on 4/20/2011.

Speed walkers who move at the rate of five miles an hour or faster, will burn at least as many calories as a runner moving at the same pace.
Energy expenditure during walking and jogging.

Exercise involving high impacts, even a relatively small amount, appears to be the most efficient for enhancing bone mass...
Exercise and bone mass in adults.

This study established the published prediction equations for the energy expenditure of walking and running compared with the measured values.
Energy expenditure of walking and running: comparison with prediction equations.

Promoting a step rate of 100 step[s] [per]minute may serve as a practical public health recommendation to exercise at moderate intensity.
Determination of step rate thresholds corresponding to physical activity intensity classifications in adults.

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8/7/2011