The great debate: Running vs Walking?

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To run or not to run, that is the question?
Which offers more health benefits with less risk?
Which is more effective for weight loss?
Does running have a severe impact on my knees?
Do I have to seriously break a sweat for it to be exercise?

These are just some of the questions associated with this debate, and it’s quite easy for logic to evade us whilst answering. But what do the experts and their studies say?

I posed the question to Michael Rhodes, a registered biokineticist specializing in fitness assessment. Michael explained that both running and walking have numerous different health and fitness benefits, but one of the first things to consider is the person involved. For a person who has an underlying heart problem, asthma or a previously severe injury, a brisk walk might be the best solution. However, for a healthy person hoping to achieve a specific fitness goal, running would probably be first prize.

“In terms of physiological gains, running is better, however, it is harder on the body and more detrimental to joint deterioration. It is important to remember though that impact is also needed for the bones and joints to increase bone density and in effect prevent osteoporosis. So, running would still be favorable over a non-weight bearing exercise such as cycling in that regard.”

The physiological gains which most people are interested in is weight loss. Running will generally burn more calories than walking, as a result of the increased heart rate and more rigorous physiological impact. It is also important to remember that sustained exercise will always burn more energy than short bursts of exercise – this would make longer distance running more effective than short sprints. This could formulate the answer that for general weight management running would probably be a more effective approach.

Dr. Douglas Bruce Brand, a medical doctor specializing in Orthopaedics explained that there could be a more serious negative impact to your body from running. “We often see stress fractures in the tibia, femur, and fibula as a result of running. These can be caused by both the degree of shock that travels up your leg when your foot initially hits the ground as well as the forces experienced when you are pushing your body off the ground. It is important to note that a lot of these injuries are also a result of poor diet, not resting regularly enough and possibly even genetics.”

I suppose to answer the question simply:

  1. If you have some kind of medical reason why you shouldn’t be running, then walking is the right answer.
  2. If weight loss is your goal, then you will see more of a result from running, but it’s important this is done within a planned program that isn’t too strenuous for you, remembering to take effective rest days.

At the end of the day, if you’ve made the effort to either walk or run, you have accomplished something. The important thing is the commitment to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Remember, if you have any underlying health concerns or find exercise to cause any pain or severe discomfort, rather consult your physician before continuing.