Pin It

Is a brisk walk as good as a run?

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on May 3, 2013

Is a brisk walk as good as a run?

This one’s for the walkers: If you’ve ever felt bad because you can’t jog or just don’t feel like it, I have good news.

True, you can’t burn as many calories per minute walking as you can running—but you can get the same health benefits, according to some new research. It’ll just take a little bigger chunk out of your day.

Previous studies that looked at the benefits of walking and running used time, not distance, in their comparisons. That’s a bit stupid, as the average person can cover about three miles during an hour-long brisk walk but five or six miles (or more) in the same period of running.

It’s no wonder walking came out as less effective in the old studies, given that joggers ended up doing twice as much work.

All the same health advantages

In this new study, involving more than 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers, scientists correlated energy expenditures (calorie cost) from walking and running with risk reductions for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.

And although the intensity levels of those activities are very different, the upshot is that walking ultimately provides all the same health advantages.

Here’s how lead scientist Dr. Paul T. Williams put it:

“The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.”

Quick translation: if you burn, for example, 250 calories several times a week doing either of these forms of exercise (and let’s assume this holds for any form of aerobic exercise), you get equal reward.

If you weigh 150 pounds and you’re walking at a 3 mile-per-hour pace, it’ll take you about 50 minutes to burn those calories. If your running pace is 10 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour), you’ll need only 22 minutes to get the job done.

(Note that I’m using the calorie estimates provided by the calorie-burn calculator on the HealthStatus website.)

Either way, the payoff is significant

Both runners and walkers reduced their risk of first-time diagnoses of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. They also reduced their incidence of coronary heart disease.

As Dr. Williams points out, a walking habit may be more sustainable for lots of people. I’m thinking of the women I speak to who can no longer run because of arthritis in a knee or hip.

So if you’ve been thinking, “all I can do is walk,” there’s no reason to feel inadequate. You put in the time, and it’ll get the job done.

What’s your preference? Let me know in the comment box below!

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
I'm Mary Weaver, your weight-loss and body-transformation coach. My specialty is helping women get in the best shape of their lives with satisfying diet plans, effective fat-burning exercise, and loads of encouragement and motivation. Check me out on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Grab your Hot Body Kit, including your Look Better Naked report and a checklist of 11 essential fat-loss tips. It's FREE!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken Morrow May 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

A good, correct, accurate analysis.

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Ken, you are a walking champion! I always love seeing your FourSquare posts about which trail you’re walking at the moment.

Reply

Pamela Hernandez May 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

It absolutely is! Thank you for the great reminder!

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

It makes me happy, knowing this . . . because my right ankle hasn’t permitted me to run for at least the past 10 years.

Reply

Victoria Morrison May 4, 2013 at 4:42 am

I used to run quite a bit. It *was* my primary cardio activity and sometimes I enjoyed it – other times I enjoyed the benefits more than the process. Now I choose a variety of cardio options to rotate the wear and tear on my joints. When I go for a longer walk, I don’t need to play upbeat music as I do when I run. This means I can catch up on podcasts. A little bit of multi-tasking is a nice added bonus :-)

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

If I’m walking by myself, I usually go with silence, which I cannot do while working out more intensely. Good opportunity for my brain to clear out!

Reply

Sonny Cunningham May 4, 2013 at 5:17 am

A really usefull article Mary, and the outcome should encourage more people to walk more. Just by getting up and getting fresh air you almost always feel better than sitting back and watching life happen around you.

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 4, 2013 at 8:57 am

Thanks, Sonny—total agreement. Definitely lifts my mood!

Reply

Sarah Arrow May 4, 2013 at 5:18 am

I’ve got no excuse not to walk the dog now, have I? I bet I burn more calories being pulled along than I do walking ;)

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

Hey, think about when we walk *our* dogs—each of us has two dogs to handle!

Reply

Angelika Davey May 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Oh, you don’t know how happy I am to read this!!!
I’ve been saying this for a long time and have got myself into quite a few heated arguments, erm, I mean discussions because of it.
Now I’ve got it in writing – thanks, Mary!

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 5, 2013 at 7:08 am

Happy to know I have contributed to world peace, or at least peace within your world. :-)

Reply

Kimberly, The Fur Mom May 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Good to know, because I’ve been taking our dogs on brisk walks on these lovely days in the Pacific Northwest. I’m stunned at the soreness in my legs that same afternoon. But it’s worth it for thinner thighs, a higher/tighter backside, and sleeping dogs!

Thanks for this post!

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 5, 2013 at 7:08 am

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Sleeping dogs? HUGE benefit. :-)

Reply

Suzanne May 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm

All good points! I like that this study came out. There are so many joint stresses associated with running, not to mention wasting away muscle in many cases due to lack of strength training. Walking rocks! Now we need more about how power walking and running compare, because that’s when you get into more calorie burning.

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

Yup–especially when we’re running on concrete (as I used to do).

Reply

Shira May 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Mary, this post was music to my ears! I can’t run but at least once a week do interval treadmill training walking briskly. Armed with the data you presented above, I won’t envy my triathlete friends’ running ability now that I am definitely busting a move without busting up my knees!

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

No more triathlete envy!

And I think the number of people over 45 or 50 who can continue to run without joint pain is comparatively small.

Reply

Sarupa Shah May 8, 2013 at 8:35 am

This is so so so so so good to know as I cannot stand running – unless I am running after a little person who has run the opposite way and I have to catch them before they run off too far…but seriously running is painful and I have always felt a little bad I don’t but find it so painful if I do…not for me – walking is the new running!

Reply

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS May 8, 2013 at 8:48 am

Excellent!

Reply

sally May 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I love brisk walks, short and long, as a central part of my ongoing fitness program. Running on grass playing football or cricket in my teens and 20′s was fine but my knees had hard roads even for a jog these days. That’s why cycling now fits the bill as a good cardio workout especially up and down hills!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Google Analytics Alternative