Can Walking Be as Effective as Running?

Walking or running, which is the better exercise? People constantly debate the best form of cardiovascular exercise. When performing a search online, you will likely find communities that back each method of training, which they can and should. Each activity is beneficial in its own right, meaning there is no shame in using both in your workouts. Variety is often more preferential than any one exercise to maintaining health and building muscle.

The problem comes when people argue over the effectiveness of either running or walking. When compared apples to apples — flat running versus flat walking — running wins with the calorie burn. However, running is more taxing on your knees, ankles, etc., which is why many people, especially those dealing with arthritis or injuries, prefer walking to running.

Truthfully, there is no reason you cannot experience an equivalent calorie burn while walking. You either need to walk for longer periods or start an incline regimen. Walking at a continuous incline burns more calories than flat walking, and it can burn a similar number of calories compared to flat running.

The Advantages of Incline Walking

While running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, it is an aggressive and potentially abusive activity. Your knees and other joints sustain multiple and repetitive impacts that can worsen existing injuries or lead to damage later in life. 

Fitness experts have known that walking is less damaging than running for a long time. The impacts the body contends with during walking are less vigorous, softer. The big drawback to walking compared to running is the calorie deficit. Flat running and flat walking are not equivalent when it comes to calorie burn, and walkers will need to double or even triple their time exercising to receive the same benefits s runners. However, walking at an incline changes everything.

Incline walking engages stabilizer muscles and requires more energy than walking on a flat surface. The muscle engagement and energy burn are equivalent to flat running, if not better, in some ways.

By engaging the back, hips, and core, incline walking helps develop muscles key to balance. As people age, balance tends to weaken, becoming a significant threat to safety. With more developed stabilizer muscles, aging individuals can reduce the risks of falling and the injuries that stem from it.

Aside from building critical muscles, incline walking is still walking, so the typical advantages of walking over running remain, primarily reduced impact injuries. Walking does not require the same footpad collision with the concrete, meaning the body does not need to absorb as much force, even when incline walking.

Both Exercises Are Beneficial

No one is saying that you should never run. Running is an effective form of exercise. Still, it is not safe for everyone. 

People at a greater risk of injury should avoid running. Walking is preferential for those with arthritis and other musculoskeletal injuries. While flat walking will not provide the same calorie loss as running, incline walking does and in the same amount of time.

When choosing or planning your exercise routine, you should consult with your primary care physician to determine what activities are safe and most beneficial. Even if you cannot run, incline walking can provide a safer and equivalent form of exercise, especially from a calorie-burn perspective.

Do you have any experience with incline walking, or are you willing to give it a try? Leave a comment below.