Is Running Better Than Walking for Weight Loss?

Walking and running are both extremely effective forms of cardio. One is not necessarily “better” than the other. The choice you make should be strongly influenced on your individual goals and preferences. If your goal is to burn more calories in a short period of time, you might lean more towards running, as your heart rate is higher during a run than a walk. Walking can also help you burn just as many calories, without the joint pain that may occur from running.

Both running and walking are great ways to incorporate cardio into your every day routine. In this blog, we’re going to take a deeper look into to help you see which one is best for you and your goals.

First things first, how does your body lose fat?

When most people think of burning fat or losing weight, they automatically think of the number on the scale or the clothes in their closet, waiting to be fit into again. What does losing weight actually mean, though? 

Read: Running 101 (French)

Fat cells exist to store energy. The body will increase the number an d size of fat cells to adapt to the excess energy built up from a high calorie diet. Fat cells will even go as far as to attach themselves to organs, muscles and liver to store all this extra energy. This becomes especially true when a high calorie diet is mixed with no physical activity.

The body doesn’t know where to spend all that extra energy (calories), therefore it stores it all as fat, for future use.

Back in the days, fat storage was an important part of life. The stored fat molecules were released into the bloodstream during times of prolonged fasting or high adrenaline.

For example, when a predator would chase a human, the spike in adrenaline would activate the “fight or flight” in the huma, which would then create a trickle down effect in the body functions.

In the end, the stored fat was used as immediate energy to help the human escape. Those with more stored fat were able to survive longer periods without food, as the body would use the fat as fuel, and had extra energy during hostile environments.

In our day and age, the chance of going a prolonged period of time without food, voluntarily, is very slim. As well, the chances of us being chased by a predator are highly unlikely. This is why our excess fat, given a high calorie, low activity lifestyle, is detrimental to today’s human’s health. 

What’s important to know with fat cells is that they release energy very slowly, meaning that they are burned slowly. What’s more, these extra and enlarged fat cells produce abnormal amounts of different hormones. This increase in fat count may increase inflammation, slow down metabolism, and contribute to disease in the long-term. In order to reduce the amount of fat stored in the body, one must create a calorie deficit so that the deficit creates an energy use for the stored fat.

When a person begins and maintains a new workout routine with a caloric deficit, the body uses the energy stored in the fat cells to fuel new activity. 

The body adjusts by decreasing the amount of fat cells and their size, thus improving baseline metabolism, decreasing inflammation, improving overall health, and prolonging lifespan. If the routine is maintained, the body reabsorbs the extra empty fat cells and discards them as waste, leaving us leaner and healthier on multiple levels.

Now, should I run to speed up the fat loss process?

Pros & Cons of Running

Running is a high-intensity exercise that uses the larger muscle groups of the lower body resulting in high-calorie burn for weight loss. This means that when regular running is paired with a maintenance caloric intake or even a caloric deficit, weight loss will most likely occur. 

Many people gain weight when they start running, or when training for a long distance event. Reasons for this weight gain include an increase in muscle mass and increased glycogen in the muscle. Additionally, as weekly mileage increases, appetite will increase as well causing people to eat more to accommodate the increase in calories spent running as well as the increased muscle mass. 

Pros & Cons of Walking

Walking is also a cardiovascular exercise, but with less effective fat loss benefits compared to running. Unless you are speed walking over a long distance, walking won’t amount to as many calories burned. Despite this small disadvantage compared to other forms of more intense cardio, you can still lose fat while walking every day. If you’re in a caloric deficit at the end of the day, you will lose fat.

For beginners, more intense forms of cardio may be difficult or unsafe at the beginning of their journey. Walking is a low-impact, easy way to gradually improve your fitness level so that you can eventually do more intense activity. For people with injuries or health issues, walking may be the best way to start a healthy lifestyle and exercise routine.

To conclude, one isn’t better than the other for fat loss. Which one you choose is highly dependent on a multitude of factors, some of which being health status, previous injuries, goals, as well as budget and personal preference. Running may be more effective when it comes to burning fat quickly but it also comes with it’s own set of risks. Walking has much less risk, but also much less reward in the short-run.

If you’re just starting to incorporate cardiovascular training into your routine, start with 30-40 mins of fast walking, 2-3 times a week. When you feel ready, start splitting up those walks in half (or thirds): 15-20 mins walking, 15-20 mins running. Slowly, increase your run time and test your cardiovascular endurance while reaping its benefits on fat loss.

Did you try this running workout?

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