Walking vs Running: Weight Loss, Fat Loss, Life Span AND MORE

Walking seems easy, but it can absolutely compete with running on a number of levels.

Both activities can prolong your life, improve your body composition, and enhance mental health.

In this article, I’ll compare walking versus running for weight loss, fat loss, mental health, physical health, and more.

And everything is backed by rigorous studies.

Walking versus Running for Weight Loss

Both walking and running can promote weight loss. 

However, you should consider these factors.

Caloric Burn

Running generally burns more calories than walking due to its higher intensity. 

According to Healthline, quote, someone who’s 160 pounds, running at 5 miles per hour (mph) burns 606 calories. Walking briskly for the same amount of time at 3.5 mph burns just 314 calories.

Healthline infers that, quote, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound. If your goal is to lose weight, running is a better choice than walking.

Besides, a study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research shows that runners continue to burn more calories than walkers even after their workout. And that afterburn effect lasts five minutes longer.

But that assumes you can run for 5 miles an hour for that entire hour. And let’s face it, not everyone can do that.

That brings us to the next point.

Motivation and Perceived Effort

For some people, running can be more challenging and demanding than walking. The higher impact and intensity of running may make it harder to sustain for longer periods, especially for beginners or those with joint issues. 

On the other hand, walking is a low-impact exercise that can be more accessible and even enjoyable for people who prefer a less intense workout. This can lead to better long-term adherence and consistency.

That’s not all.

You can walk every day without feeling extremely tired. In fact, chances are you’ll have more energy after your 60-minute walk, so you can play with your kids, go dancing, or go swimming.

That’s not the case with jogging for 60 minutes.

People who go on a 60-minute run are more tempted to become couch potatoes for the rest of the day, thus decreasing their metabolic rates.

And you can absolutely make walking more difficult to burn more calories and even build muscle.

Hang onto hand weights while walking.

Wear a weighted vest that is 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.

Wear ankle weights.

Walk at an incline. Studies show that a 1% incline on a treadmill increases oxygen consumption and helps you burn more calories. 

The increased oxygen consumption also helps you build more lean muscles in your legs.

By contrast, jogging and running are forms of cardio that can decrease lower body muscle mass, especially if you don’t have strength training in your routine.


Ultimately, the best exercise for weight loss is what you enjoy and can incorporate into your lifestyle consistently. Walking can fit easily into daily routines, such as commuting or taking breaks at work. It may also be more suitable for those with physical limitations that prevent them from running.

For example, you can go on a brisk 30-minute walk during your lunch break or before work and barely break a sweat.

You can go back to your office rested and refreshed.

Now imagine going for a 30-minute run.

You would most likely need to shower before returning to work, and your energy levels would be lower.

Walking versus Running for Fat Burn

When most people think about burning fat, they think of the fat-burn zone.

The fat-burn heart rate zone refers to the heart rate range at which your body primarily utilizes fat as a fuel source. To determine your fat-burn heart-rate zone, calculate your maximum heart rate. Subtract your age from 220 to estimate your MHR. For example, if you are 30, your estimated MHR would be 190 beats per minute (bpm).

The fat burn heart rate zone typically ranges from 70% to 90% of your MHR. To calculate your fat-burn heart-rate range, multiply your MHR by 0.7 and 0.9. For example, if your MHR is 190 bpm, your fat burn heart rate range would be between 133 and 171 beats per minute.

And technically, running can make your heart beat faster to get to that zone easier.

But you can also bring your heart rate up through brisk walking. Wearing ankle weights and pumping your arms can make your entire body work harder during your walks.

And that will also increase your heart rate in the fat-burning zone.

But burning fat depends on more factors.

If you want to lose fat, you must consume fewer calories than you burn.

Limiting your daily intake by 100-200 calories (the equivalent of walking for half an hour) is enough to help you lose weight consistently in the long run.

In fact, a study on the effect of walking exercise on abdominal fat showed that walking three times per week for 12 weeks, in 50 to 70-minute chunks, can considerably reduce visceral abdominal fat.

That’s deep-tissue belly fat.

You can also decrease your fat-to-muscle ratio by building lean muscle.

Changing your body composition can be done through both weight loss and weight gain. Gaining more muscle mass decreases the proportion of body fat even if you are not actively burning your fat stores.

But your newly gained muscles will make you look more sculpted.

And walking can help you with that.

After a walk, you may feel rested enough to pick up your free weights and build lean muscle. But running for too long may stop you from doing that.

Walking versus Running for Mental Health

A 2015 study on 1904 women with depressive symptoms found that total physical activity and walking levels were associated with a higher health-related quality of life.

The study authors note that sufficient physical activity or walking can significantly improve health-related quality of life in people with depressive symptoms.

Other studies attest that walking can reduce anxiety and depression, improving self-esteem. The two main reasons are increasing blood flow to the brain and influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis so that we can respond better to stress.

Running shows similar benefits.

Running can decrease symptoms of depression, which is why many therapists include outdoor jogs in treating mild to moderate cases of depression.

And a ten-minute jogging session on the treadmill is shown to produce considerable mood improvements.

It’s no wonder that runners have overall lower stress levels than non-runners, according to multiple reviews.

I’ll include this research in the video description below, so you can analyze it further.

Walking versus Running for Physical Health

Multiple studies prove that both walking and running help people prevent chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and more.

One study shows that runners have a 30% lower risk of death from any cause than non-runners. Regarding heart disease specifically, runners’ risk of death is 45% lower.

But becoming a runner isn’t the only way to reap those benefits.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine quoted by the Guardian shows that just 11 minutes of walking per day can prevent 10% of premature deaths worldwide.

Walking versus Running for Joint Health

Walking and running are weight-bearing exercises that strengthen your bones.

Conversely, running is a higher-impact activity likelier to produce shin or knee splints. Walking is lower intensity, so it’s better for people with arthritis, knee pain, or osteoporosis.

To minimize the impact of running on your joints, choose solid, cushiony jogging shoes.

You should also avoid running on asphalt as much as you can. Grass or treadmills can be much better on your joints.

And yes, the science backs this up.

Studies show that runners’ knees do become stronger with time. The problem is that people with pre-existing joint pain or bone damage may not be able to run in the first place.

But if you’re otherwise healthy and your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can absolutely run safely.

Do You Have to Choose Walking or Running?

Walking and running can do wonders for your physical and mental health. These activities can prolong your life, decrease the risk of chronic disease, help you manage stress better, and have a better mood.

And while running “is” technically the best fat and calorie-burning option, walking can be the more feasible alternative in terms of consistency. And that will help you stick to it for longer.

However, you absolutely can combine walking and running.

For example, you can go jogging twice a week, strength train another two times per week, and walk as much as you can the remaining time.

If you have a treadmill, you can use it for incline walks that strength-train your lower body. Grab a couple of dumbbells and do bicep curls, tricep extensions, and other upper-body resistance training right while you’re walking.

Pro tip: Remember to set your treadmill at a low speed if you’re using weights during your walks.

That said, what are “your” thoughts on running versus walking?

Do you like jogging, or do you prefer walking?

Mary D. Brown

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