Does Running Burn More Calories Than Walking?

My Nike+ doesn’t think so… So I decided to do some digging to find out.  I jogged 1.83 miles a few nights ago and then ago walked the same distance.  According to Nike+ I burned 397 calories (if I had realized I was at 397, I would have circled the car in the drive way a few times for the extra 3 cals).  Hmmm… when I run my knees hurt, my side hurts, my back hurts – I mean, let’s face it – I’m FAT.  When I walk, I don’t hurt.  So, if walking burns the same calories, why run?

Which is it then, walking or running?  Well, the answer is apparently… complicated.  The short and simple – if your knees and back hurt while you run – then walk.  Moving the same amount of mass the same amount of distance (i.e. you running 1 mile vs you walking 1 mile) takes the same amount of effort, meaning it burns the same calories.  “But wait”, you say, “didn’t  you say it was complicated?” Yes well, the assumption is that both running and walking are equally efficient.  They are not.  Running is LESS efficient and therefore burns MORE calories.  It also doesn’t take into account the amount of time you continue to burn calories due to increased heart rate after the run vs the walk.

Here is my take – running is hard on the joints and difficult to do.  For someone that is extremely out of shape, your heart rate will spike well above the ‘fat burning’ zone (60% of 220 bpm minus your age) while you run AND you are less likely to go as far as when you walk.  If you are like me – you might run for two miles, but you are much more likely to walk for four miles.  So, if you are choosing to run one mile instead of walking two or three and your goal is weight loss, then clearly you should switch to walking.

Now if  your goal is better cardovascular… thats another story.

9 comments

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  1. Chris Hurst · January 14, 2009

    What is best is to jog first to get your heart pumping at a higher rate than is usual, then slow down to keep your heart at that target rate. That keeps it pumping to burn calories, but it isn’t exerting it and causing it to hurt. I normally jog at about 6 MPH for a few minutes to get my heart up to 130, and then slow down to around 5 MPH and keep that pace for the rest of my time, this allows for a better calorie burn, while also exercising my heart.

    When you are trying to loose weight, if you “tone” or slowly build your muscles, you are actually causing your body to continue the work out after your work out. When you do high rep, low weight lifting the muscles are torn apart and new grow. This repairing of your muscles will continue to burn calories through out your day.

    • dsackr · January 14, 2009

      Hey Chris! Thanks for the comment! Glad you stopped by…

  2. Amy · January 14, 2009

    Definitely food for thought! Glad you’re enlightening us!

    • dsackr · January 14, 2009

      I found it interesting, I’m glad you did too. I’ve been walking everyday since (when I was running I only ran a couple of days a week.)

  3. Donella · January 14, 2009

    I guess this is why mall- walking is so popular with the “joint-replacement” demographic.

  4. Jessie · January 14, 2009

    Timely post D- I had been assuming that when I was running I was burning more cals (then I noticed the #s on the treadmill’s calories burned meter wasnt really moving any faster when I increased my speed..

    I have found I need to do what is just a little above my comfort level for me to be able to a-get the benefits of it and b- keep doing it so I reach a goal

    I tend to walk a half lap and slowly increase the speed until I am at a comfy brisk jog (with my short legs its a pretty low number on the speed meter) Then when I am in my final lap (this is what I love about my treadmill over walking the neighborhood) I increase my speed more and try to full on run the last half lap (those bleeps indicating my lap completion TAUNT me at the end every time)

    • dsackr · January 14, 2009

      I learned a lot while doing the research – most of it was too technical to be any practical good but the point I took away was that if running hurts, walk – you will see the same calorie benefit over the same distance.

      The truth is, if you hate to run, you will quit and get no benefit. The goal is to change the tempo of your LIFE, not your workout. The more active you are, the more likely you are to keep losing weight in the long ‘run’ – pun intended!

  5. nomad · January 14, 2009

    Running a mile in 12 mins burns the same calories as walking it in 12 mins. Bottom line if you get a good walking pace it’s as good as running minus all the pain on joints plus you can walk father and burn even more calories. Walking for 2 hours burns more calories then running for one hour. How do you like them apples.

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