What Are the Benefits of Walking and Running?

Walking and running offer numerous benefits, ranging from increased physical fitness to an enhanced sense of well-being 4. Because both walking and running can help you develop physical strength, ward off disease and enhance wellness, which option is preferable often comes down to individual preference and fitness level 2. For example, if you can run for only very short distances, walking might be better because you might be more inclined to participate more frequently and for longer amounts of time. Examining some of the positive results associated with both exercises – or a combination of walking and running – can help you determine which exercise makes sense for your lifestyle 2.

Walking With Benefits

The American Heart Association states that walking can reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis 1. It can also alleviate high blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels. Taking a brisk walk every day can contribute to your overall fitness by burning calories, improving muscle strength and tone and working your cardiovascular system. Wellness can be positively effected, since walking releases endorphins that improve your mood and helps increase concentration levels. Because of its low impact, walking is one of the safest forms of physical activity, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, and it may also contribute to helping reduce abdominal fat 1.

Running for Health

Running helps burn calories which can contribute to weight loss and reducing the risk of osteoporosis and complications related to joint pressure. Running can also strengthen and stabilize ligaments in the body, making you less susceptible to sprains. Running helps work out the quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominal muscles, calf muscles, glutes and the hip flexors. Because running is a high-impact workout, you'll burn more calories and engage your cardiovascular system. Towson University states that running can decrease the risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and breast, uterine and bowel cancer. Since running releases endorphins, additional benefits include improved mental health, physical self-perception and self-esteem; additionally, it can relieve depression.

Comparing and Contrasting

"The New York Times" states that runners tend to lose more weight compared to walkers, especially fat around the abdominal area. According to the article, which detailed a 2012 University of Wyoming study, walking contributed to an increased appetite while running contributed to a slightly decreased appetite among the 19 women who participated in the study 2. Both walking and running burn calories, however, which can lead to fat burning when combined with a daily calorie deficit 2. Running burns more calories than walking, making it a better option for individuals looking to lose weight. Walking might be slightly more associated with reduced risk of heart disease compared with running, but this depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of the exercise, according to Live Science 4. With both walking and running, however, the risk of heart disease drops. Both walking and running are beneficial because they are inexpensive, free and you can do them almost anywhere.

Doing It Right

To achieve optimum benefits, walkers should maintain good posture and allow arms to swing lightly. Engaging the abdominal muscles increases core strength and protects the spine. To keep you on track, consider asking a friend to join you on regular walks. Purchasing a pedometer can help you track the number of steps walked each day. Aim for a 30-minute walk to achieve benefits associated with walking, which include reduced risk of disease, increased physical strength and improved emotional health. When running, stick to appropriate surfaces such as grass, woodland trails or man-made tracks instead of asphalt to reduce impact levels.