Is walking or running better for your health? Benefits and risks

There are many benefits of exercise for physical, mental and emotional health. But when it comes to running versus walking, there’s not much difference: both running and walking improve your overall health, and neither exercise is inherently better than the other. When deciding whether running versus walking is better for you, consider your personal goals.

If you want to finish a race or burn the most calories possible, running may be best; while walking provides key health benefits and is a low-impact exercise great for people with arthritis, knee pain or other health problems.

Keep reading to learn more about these two exercises, including walking vs. running for weight loss and burning calories, as well as the benefits of incline walking vs. running.

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Benefits of cardio exercises

Cardiovascular exercise is movement that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe a little harder than you normally would. Cardio has many benefits, including:

  • Longer lifespan
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • You better sleep
  • Better mental health
  • Reduced body fat
  • Improved immune system function

Because there are so many benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, each week. Or, you can aim to get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running or walking.

Benefits of running

Running allows you to complete your recommended exercise in about half the time, making it a great choice for people who are short on time. In addition, running can be a good choice if you want to complete a certain race or become faster and more agile on the sports field.

Running has all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise listed above, plus:

  • Longer lifespan: One study found that runners live an average of three years longer than non-runners.
  • Increased calorie burning: Running burns almost twice as many calories per minute as walking.
  • Stronger bones: While running and walking improve bone density, research shows that runners tend to have stronger bones than people who walk for exercise.

Benefits of walking

Walking also has the cardiovascular exercise benefits listed above, in addition to these benefits:

  • It is available: Most people can walk without special training or equipment. Walking is usually easy to start, even for people with lower fitness levels or mobility issues.
  • It can reduce cravings: Studies have found that people are less likely to crave chocolate after a 15-minute walk.
  • It can fight joint pain: People who walk regularly report less joint pain associated with arthritis, research shows.
  • May reduce genetic risk of obesity: Among people who have genes that contribute to obesity, the influence of those genes was cut in half for people who walked regularly, a study found.

Calories Burned Walking vs. Running

Running burns about 15.1 calories per minute, while walking burns about 8.7 calories per minute for a 160-pound person. A person of that weight will burn 453 calories during a 30-minute run compared to 261 calories during a 30-minute walk.

Which is better: walking or running?

Neither is inherently better than the other. Which one is right for you will depend on your goals and which activity you enjoy more. Both walking and running have benefits for physical and mental health. They allow you to exercise without special equipment, can give you time in nature (which offers additional health benefits), and can provide social opportunities if you walk with a friend or run with a group.

Running might be the right choice for you if you like more intense exercise. Running allows you to burn more calories per minute, which can increase weight loss. One study found that while running and walking promote weight loss, there was a greater degree of weight loss among people who ran than those who walked.

Walking is a great option if you are just starting a fitness routine. Walking is accessible to most people and is a great way to get some exercise in. Because it’s low impact and less intense than running, it’s a great place to start if you’re just starting out. Although running burns more calories per minute, walking also has a significant calorie burn and can contribute to long-term weight loss and weight management.

Avoiding injuries

Whether you choose to walk or run, it’s important to take some precautions to avoid injury, including:

  • Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regime, especially if they are helping you with any health issues.
  • Warm up and cool down before and after exercise.
  • Stretch before and after exercise.
  • Wear reflective material and other protective gear if you walk or run outside.
  • Start slowly and choose a manageable goal and slowly increase your exercise. This will help your body adjust to the new routine and avoid injury.

The risks of running

Running is a high-impact, high-impact exercise, so it has more potential for risk than walking, including:

The best way to avoid running injuries is to start slowly and increase your distance and speed over time.

How to increase the intensity of walking

If you already walk and want to increase the intensity of your workouts, you have many options beyond running. These settings can help you boost your workout without running:

  • Walk uphill: Walking on hills or uphills will drastically increase the calories you burn and your effort. Walking on a 10% incline will double the calories you burn compared to walking on a flat surface.
  • Wear a weighted vest or backpack: Adding weight while walking will result in more calorie burning and exertion. Try rucking, a popular low-impact activity that involves walking with a weighted backpack.
  • Increase speed: Brisk walking will provide a more intense workout than walking.


Whether you want to lose weight or just improve your general health, walking and running are great choices. Cardiovascular exercises like these can improve your physical and mental health. Running provides a higher calorie burn per minute, while walking is more accessible and less risky.

You can increase your calorie burn by walking on an incline or by adding a weighted backpack. Remember, movement is one of the most important things you can do for your health, whether it’s walking, jogging or running.

Verivell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

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Author: Kelly Burch

Kelly Burch has been writing about health topics for over a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and more.

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