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Walking VS Running

By Shaun Holt

I have gone from the occasional run to doing 10 half marathons and running over 2,000km last year. A downside is that this resulted in 12kg of weight loss and none of my clothes fitted any more - not the worst problem to have!

However, I understand that running is not for everyone, particularly as we get older or have injuries which make it hard, or even impossible. What might surprise you though, and which was news to me, is that walking can be just as beneficial in terms of the health benefits.

Running is clearly a vigorous activity whereas walking tends to be more moderate in intensity. However, both are cardio (aerobic) exercise as they make your heart beat faster and make you breathe harder. Aerobic exercise has many health benefits such as improving circulation, mood, sleep, blood sugar, memory, cholesterol etc, etc.

The main point to note is that one minute of vigorous activity (running) is equivalent to two minutes of moderate activity (walking). And so, when you see someone running, you can get the same benefits from walking, not for 5 or 10 times the time which they are running, but just twice as much. My 12kg of weight loss came from running for around 40 minutes a day on average, and so 80 minutes of walking would lead to the same results. An average person burns around 15.1 calories a minute while running and 8.7 calories a minute when walking. I had always assumed that the difference was much bigger.

Importantly, studies have shown that it is time that is important, not distance.

It is a cliché, but the best exercise for you is one that you will actually do regularly. It might be that you have tried running but given up, but as walking is less of a physical challenge you can actually do it regularly. It can also be a social activity if you choose, or, you could multitask like I do by listening to educational or entertaining podcasts while you exercise.

As mentioned above, one of the benefits from cardio exercise is an improved mood. When walking outside you are absorbing UV radiation, even on a cloudy day. This will help maintain your vitamin D levels, especially in the winter, and this has multiple benefits, including improved mood and even reducing the chances of suffering from respiratory infections.

An advantage of walking as opposed to running is that you are less likely to suffer from injuries. Running puts far higher stress on the legs, especially the joints. If you suffer from an injury, you may not be able to exercise at all. Around half of all runners incur an injury every year.

So, in conclusion, if running is not for you, don’t worry, get out there and try walking instead.