There are many people who would argue that walking is a better form of exercise than running or vice versa. In reality, each of these forms of exercise have some benefits that separate it from the other. In this review, we will identify the risks versus rewards of both to help identify what type of program is right for you.
Assessing Risk from Running or Walking
Due to the impactful nature of running, injury is significantly more prevalent in runners compared to walkers. Running creates ground reaction forces up to 2.5 times the weight of your body, while walking only creates ground reaction forces up to 1.2 times the weight of the body. These ground reaction forces are one of the reasons why studies have shown around 50 percent of avid runners will experience some type of pain or injury at some point, while only 1 percent of walkers will experience pain or injury from their form of exercise. Due to the increased impact as well as the fact that running creates moments in our gait where both feet are off the ground at once, there is an increased chance for tripping or falling with running. Common injuries from overuse running can include Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB), Runner’s Knee (Chondromalacia), Achilles Tendonitis and Shin Splints.
Injury or dysfunction from walking is generally less severe and common problems can include Plantar Fasciitis or ankle sprains. Certain measures can be taken to help prevent injuries with running/walking, such as being fit for good running shoes or orthotic inserts. Your physical therapist can help you determine if you are a candidate for orthotic inserts to support your feet properly. Certain exercises may also be beneficial to help support the lower extremities and core to decrease stress on the joints of the lower extremities with higher-level exercises like running.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Running
While running does pose some increased chance for injury or pain, it also offers great cardiovascular benefits. Research has shown that individuals that jog 10 minutes or more per day have an average life expectancy that is 3-5 years greater than those who don’t run or jog. This is because the increased cardiovascular output from running greatly reduces ones risk of death from cardiovascular disease. While walking does offer some cardiovascular benefits, runners can achieve higher target heart rate levels and VO2 max levels. While both are good in terms of achieving weight loss goals, running can burn almost twice as many calories when compared to walking in the same amount of time.
Conclusions: Both Running and Walking Offer Benefits
In conclusion, both running and walking have benefits that need to be considered when deciding which exercise is right for you. Each person should assess what goals they want to achieve through a cardio exercise program and can discuss with their Physical Therapist to help put together a program that is right for them. When just starting off, it is usually advisable to start with walking before progressing to higher intensity running. One should also be mindful of how their body is responding to increasing exercise intensity to help gauge the appropriate time to progress. Contact your physical therapist can help you set up a home walk or jog program to get started as well as provide a gait analysis to help your form and prevent injury!