Walk vs Run: Which is Better for Weight Loss?

Today, I read an interesting article about whether walking or running is a more effective way to lose weight.  This article discussed a study that put 120 overweight or obese middle-aged men and women into four test groups:

  • Group 1 walked 11 miles per week (or did equivalent intensity exercise on the elliptical/bicycle)
  • Group 2 ran 11 miles per week (or did equivalent intensity exercise on the elliptical/bicycle)
  • Group 3 ran 17 miles per week (or did equivalent intensity exercise on the elliptical/bicycle)
  • Group 4 was a control group and did no exercise

All groups were asked not to make changes to their diets.  The results showed that those who walked 11 miles per week and those that ran 11 miles per week lost the same amount of weight (3 pounds over 6 months).  The group that ran 17 miles per week lost more (8 pounds in 6 months).

This study once again proves that exercise intensity does not matter for weight loss, but it is more the total number of calories you burn (and walking or running a mile burns approximately the same number of calories).  However, it does take more time to walk those miles than it takes to run them.  For example, walking 11 miles takes approximately 3 hours per week while running the same distance takes only 2 hours per week.

So, when it comes to weight loss, I recommend doing the exercise you like best.  For some, that would be exercising at a higher intensity (i.e. running) because they would rather spend less time exercising.  For others, that may be walking because it does not feel as difficult or because of physical limitations.  In addition, many studies have found that walking is the exercise people are most likely to stick with long term, and this study proves that it can be as effective as running for weight loss if you are willing to go the distance.

However, I feel it is important to mention that there are some cardiovascular benefits to getting your heart rate up.  So, it can be good to do brief periods with increased intensity during your walk to achieve those benefits as well.  This could be achieved by increasing your pace or incline for a few one-minute intervals during the workout.

Lastly, I know many people would see the weight loss numbers from this study (3 pounds in 6 months) and feel that it’s not worth the effort.  I would argue that exercise is extremely helpful for weight management for a few reasons:

  • It is the only way to build muscle/increase metabolism
  • Studies have found that people can lose weight without exercise, but 90% of people who maintain a weight loss do it through a combination of diet and exercise

So, while weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, they both go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight!

For more information, read the entire article entitled “Walking vs. Running: Are they Equally Effective for Weight Loss?” posted on NutritionAction.Com.