It Really Does Matter if You Run or Walk


This is another repeat of an article I wrote for http://www.coreperformance.com

This is a great opportunity for me to correct an error. I had always been told that from a caloric expenditure standpoint running and walking burned the same number of calories over the same distance. In fact, I wrote a piece once called It Doesn’t Matter if You Run or Walk? In the piece I advocated running versus walking so you would burn more calories per minute. The premise was that by running you would obviously cover more distance in the same amount of time and therefore expend more calories.

Now for the good news. In the September/October 2006 issue of the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal Dr. David Swain wrote an article called Moderate or Vigorous Intensity Exercise: What Should we Prescribe? In the article Dr. Swain states that “running burns twice as many calories as walking”. Great news for those who want to lose bodyfat.  This is actually a huge difference, particularly when you do the math.

Swain states that a 136 pound person walking will burn 50 calories per mile and, proportionally more as the persons weight increases. In other words a 163 lb person would weigh twenty percent more and as a result burn twenty percent more calories. This means that expenditure goes from 50 to 60 calories, also a twenty percent increase. Swain goes on to state that running burns twice as many calories at 7 miles per hour as walking at 4 miles per hour. This means a runner would burn 100 calories in roughly eight and one half minutes or about 11 calories a minute. The walker at 4 miles per hour would burn 50 calories in 15 minutes ( the time it would take to walk a mile at 4 MPH). That’s less then 4 calories per minute of exercise.  That’s nearly three times as many calories per minute. As I said, that is great news.

In my previous article we theorized that you could burn twice as many calories by running for 20 minutes than by walking for twenty minutes. In reality based on Swains article it actually is somewhere between three and four times as many calories over a twenty minute period. Twenty minutes of running at 11 calories per minute  would expend 220 calories. Twenty  minutes at three calories per minute is only 60 calories.

What a huge bonus. Just remember it is not really about running versus walking, what we are really talking about is intense exercise versus moderate exercise. As I have said in my fat loss articles and on my fat loss DVD, the facts clearly support higher intensity exercise for fat loss. The nice thing is that science continues to do research that supports the value of high intensity exercise. The fact is, it’s not should you exercise harder, it’s can you. The key is to work as hard as your health and body allows. Don’t be foolish but, if you can interval train, you probably should.

6 Responses to “It Really Does Matter if You Run or Walk”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    The point is simply that you would burn twice as much as you would walking. The key point is that intensity matters. I don’t think they have calculated how interval training ( walk/ run or walk/ rest) effects this. The key is to focus on the concept that intensity matters.

  2. I’m somewhat confused about the numbers. Could you tell me how much a 215 pound person would burn if running for 20 minutes? And would this change much if I were walking/running back and forth instead of just running?

  3. I agree completely. I entertained a conversation a couple years ago from someone who said “i burn the same amount of calories walking a mile as running one.” Entertained means I listened…but didn’t agree. She was content going on two hour walks with moderate cardiac challenge and never really got in better shape. Old habits and old beliefs die hard. I’ve done way better, way faster working people up to intervals.

  4. Great article, i wish some trainer would understand this more often, I like to just add from an article you wrote, about ppl dont want advice they just want you to tell them what they want to hear. -)

  5. This really does emphasize that quality is more important than quantity. In terms of fat burn, the adage was go lower intensity and do more. I find I’m telling more and more people to do intervals as you mentioned at the end of your post. It makes sense that doing more intense work is going to yield better results. Plus, your heart is working longer after the work is done. You emphasized great points.

  6. True, so true… Thanks for the info. Amazing what you can accomplish in 20 minutes.

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