Thursday, May 5, 2011

❏This vs That ❐: Running vs Walking

Welcome to Thursday's

Running vs Walking

Pic by Flickr user Valeriebb

FRIEND"I'm going jogging for 30 minutes or so to burn some serious calories, do you want to come?"
ME:  Nah, I'll go later.  I'll do some brisk walking instead of running, but thanks anyways.

You've heard it time and time again - running is better than walking because you burn more calories.  With all that sweating and drooling and puffing and panting, you would naturally assume it would, but is it really?
Does it really make a difference and if so how much of a difference.  Which one is better for your heart and on your joints?  Because let's face it, if you die from a heart attack while jogging (which I've read so many times), then burning calories is the least of your worries.  Which one is better for losing weight faster

In order for me to explain this post, I broke it down into two sections - running vs walking for losing weight, and running vs walking for health reasons.

Running vs Walking - For Losing Weight

Both running and walking can help you burn calories and lose weight, but the difference in calories burned per mile or kilometer is very small, and there is no difference at higher walking speeds.

Although you'll burn about the same amount of calories by walking or running for the same distance, running burns more calories per each minute of exercise, explains the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Walking burns fewer calories than running when you perform it the same amount of time and frequency. A brisk walk can burn more calories.  Physical activity may be measured in terms of METs (metabolic equivalent), a unit used to estimate the metabolic cost (oxygen consumption) of physical activity.  Just sitting quietly burns 1 MET. If you weigh 150 pounds, that is 68 calories per hour.
A runner and a fast walker, both at a speed of 12 minutes per mile or 5 miles per hour, achieve the exact same 8 MET.  Their calories per mile and calories per hour are identical.
Walking at various speeds burns between 2 and 8 MET. Running at various speeds burns between 8 to 18 MET. That sounds like quite a difference, but you have to take into account the length of the workout. Do they run for a set number of miles, or do they run for a set period of time? It makes all of the difference.
So what the hell does all this mean?   YES, you do burn more calories when running,  BUT only in terms of length of time and not distance.  This means that you'll burn more calories by running for one minute than walking for one minute.  However, if you both covered a distance of 5 miles - both of you would burn the same amount of calories. 
And by the way, the amount of calories you will burn depends not only the amount of time you run as mentioned earlier, but also your body weight and the heart rate - knowing your heart rate allows you to increase the intensity to maximize your run/walk or slow down to avoid overdoing it.  And as for body weight:

Did You Know the heavier you are, the more calories you will burn at the same speed?  For example, running for one hour will burn an estimated 986 calories in a person who's around 160lbs. (roughly 11.42 stones/72.5 kilograms), but 1,229 calories in someone who's around 200 lbs. (14 stones/90.7 kilograms), according to the Mayo Clinic.  This is probably why you see some people running or walking with weights strapped to their ankles or wearing weighted vests. 

But you only increase your calories burned per mile by about 11-12.   It would be far better and easier to just walk an extra 2-5 minutes to burn those same calories. Why risk straining yourself when you don't have to?   Which leads me to the next section:

Running vs Walking - For Health Reasons

Running, is without a doubt, one of the more strenuous forms of exercise and can take a heavy toll on your body if not done properly.  Problems such as:

Joint problems - When you run you have the potential to place the equivalent load of a baby elephant on your joints. These joints are compressed with every step you take and overuse can cause them to become inflamed, painful and sore. This can lead to serious long term joint disorders unless you look after them.  Preventions: stretching for at least 20 mins after running and buying the right pair of shoes with good shock absorbers.

Lower back problems -
The lower back has to deal with significant pressure both from the surface you are running on and also from the effort of keeping you moving whilst you run.  Preventions:  Stretch well before AND after a race. Stretching will lengthen the spine and separate the vertebrate, releasing some of the compression caused during running.
Shin splints problems -
Shin splints is a general term referring to pain at the front of the lower leg. Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), a slow-healing and painful condition in the shins. Preventions:  Stretch well before and after running.  If pain persists, apply ice on your shin and rest well.  Try running on 'softer' surfaces such as grass compared to concrete until you build some muscle tone.
Heart attack -
It is certainly true that your risk of suffering a heart attack increases with running for some individuals.
This is because running places huge demands on your cardio vascular system, which requires increased levels of oxygen to keep muscles supplied to enable you to keep running. If you have clogged or restricted arteries, caused by high fat diets, your body can't keep up the oxygen supply to the heart, causing the heart to stop pumping, leading to a heart attack.
Even healthy individuals can suffer from a heart attack whilst running because of a previously unknown heart condition.  Preventions:  Get a medical check up to rule out any medical problems you may not be aware of no matter how physically fit you are.

Then there's your Runner's diarrhea - which is most common in long-distance or marathon runners, which is not medically proven but may be due to the fact that extreme exercise directs blood flow away from the intestines — contributing to diarrhea. .

Walking, on the other hand, is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease you into a higher level of fitness and health. Walking is a form of exercise accessible to just about everybody. It's safe, simple and doesn't require practice. And the health benefits are many.

Walking, like running, can help you achieve a number of important health benefits but without the added risks of running. Walking can help you:

  • Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol)
  • Raisehigh-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
  • Manage your weight
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve sleep
  • Stay strong and fit
All it takes to reap these benefits is a routine of brisk walking. It doesn't get much simpler than that. And you can forget the "no pain, no gain" talk. Research shows that regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.

I'm definitely no medical expert, but from what I've written and read:

In terms of weight loss -
  • Running wins hands down. In general, you have to walk nearly an hour, to get a similar weight-loss benefit to a half hour run. Yes, you’ll burn more calories running for 30 minutes than you will walking, however, if a runner and a walker cover the same distance, they burn about the same number of calories... so say the experts. 
In terms of health -
  • Walking has the clear edgeThere's going to be way less injury associated with a low impact exercise such as walking than with running.  However, to reap the benefits of running, a brisk walk is the ideal and also, I've read many times, walking up a hill is a good intensity work out for walkers who cannot run.
Of course in the end, it's all up to you and what you not only want - weight loss, improved health, even just an overall sense of well-being - but also what you are able to do.  If you're overweight or have a cardiovascular condition, I wouldn't recommend running - at least not right off the start.

But if you must run or jog... go ahead!  Just be sure to take the necessary preventive measures such as:-
- Checking your heart rate to make sure you're not overdoing it,
- Proper shoes,
- Stretching before and after,
- Watching what you eat before going on long runs to prevent diarrhea, 
- Run on less-impact surfaces if possible,
- Drink adequates amount of water so you're not dehydrated... and so on and so on.

Oh!  and don't forget to start off slowly.  The impact of running on your joints can be more than three times your body weight, every step is triple the impact of walking. You have to train your body to get used to the jarring. Ultimately that's the message, for walking or running — find your level, then build up slowly and the benefits will come, in weight loss and general health.  So don't start running like "nobody's business"  if you've always sat on the couch/sofa/divan most of your life!☺  That's a complete no-no!

Thanks for reading!

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