Weight loss tips: Running or walking, which is better for your health?
Should you walk or run for exercise? If you've been wondering this, you're not alone. We connected with health experts to understand which one is the ultimate choice for burning more calories and fat.
Both walking and running can help you burn calories and lose weight. But, as with so many things related to health and fitness, these two cardio workouts aren't quite created equal. We’ve all heard the advice about walking to lose belly fat and running for weight loss. But if you've been wondering whether running or walking, which is better, we connected with two experts to explain which one is the ultimate choice for burning fat.
Why running is better than walking for weight loss
The activity that burns the most calories is going to be the one that helps you lose the most fat. In this case, that's running. "Running is better, just because you can do more high-intensity training with it," says Kabir Khan, fitness trainer and instructor at The Studio, Mumbai. "That really gets your metabolic system activated, and will help the burning of calories and fat."
Mumbai-based dietician and clinical nutritionist Geetanjali Shah was in agreement. When you work out at a lower intensity like walking, she explains, your body will burn more fat as a percentage of total calories. However, she says, "You burn more total calories, as well as more calories from fat, at higher intensities. The higher your heart rate, the greater the metabolic demand and the more energy you will expend."
Running is also more efficient, Shah says. If walking is your primary fat-burning workout, she recommends doing it for about an hour every day. You could achieve similar results, she says, by running for just 20-30 minutes.
Walking, though, is perfect for people who are just starting to lose weight and aren't used to harder aerobic workouts. "I'd say start with walking and gradually build in the running," says Shah, noting that jumping straight into running multiple times a week can result in injury. "In that sense, walking might be better for some people, because you can go longer and it's going to be easier on your body."
Burn more fat with intervals
Whether you're walking or running, you can optimise your fat burn by working in interval training; that is, going hard for a few minutes, backing off for a rest period, and repeating, says Khan. “You can do that by simply upping your pace. It will elevate your heart rate for short yet manageable durations," Khan explains, which increases your calories burned from fat. If you're on a treadmill, try a 45-minute belly-fat blasting running workout, that combines both walking and running.
If you're hitting the sidewalks, Khan recommends power-walking or running hard for one minute, then walking or jogging for one minute to recover, and repeating for five intervals. "Don't forget to warm up beforehand and cool down afterwards, for 10 minutes each," he says.
How often should you run or walk to burn fat?
Khan says that running three days a week (not consecutively) "is a great way to burn fat without risking common running-related injuries." On your non-running days, he recommends cross-training with activities like walking, biking, or swimming. "If you want to build muscle while burning fat, add in weightlifting days as well; follow this four-week workout plan that will help you lose weight while gaining muscle," says Khan. Walking is lower-impact, so you can do it more frequently if that's your cardio of choice. "Walking four to six times per week and adding in intervals will give you the best results," says Khan.
If your goal is to lose weight, Shah adds, "you should do something every day" – whether that's walking, jogging, swimming, resistance training, or even yoga on a rest day. And although running is ultimately the better fat-burning exercise, she says, "Walking is perfectly fine too. It's actually a great way to lose weight, combined with diet changes; you just need to do it consistently and do it for a longer period."
Overall, the news is positive: you'll burn fat through walking and running. "The key is to do what you can do relative to your fitness level, be consistent, and mix up your intensities. Give yourself time, stick to a plan, and the results will come," Shah says.