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Walking vs. Running

It may be the most-asked question of all, particularly by people who are just starting a fitness program.

"Which is better, walking or running?”

I guess the best answer is that whichever activity you are most likely to do on a regular basis is the best one for you. Some people love to run, and will do so every day regardless of the outside temperature or any other circumstances. Many other people will not, or cannot run, and for them walking is the best solution.

I have long been a proponent of walking, and for the vast majority of people I feel it is the best way to go, particularly if you are just starting an exercise program.

Many people are attracted to running because they feel it is the fastest way to lose weight. While it is true that you will burn more calories while running than you would walking, there are other factors to consider.

First, virtually anyone of any age or fitness level can walk. Even if you are extremely obese, you can probably manage to walk a lap in the mall or around the block. It is easy to start out slow and work your way up to 30 minutes to an hour or more.

Next, walking requires very little preparation. You can step out of the office during your lunch hour, walk for 30 minutes and go right back to work. Unless it’s an extremely hot or humid day, you probably aren’t going to get so sweaty that you require a shower afterward.

You can work in 20 to 30 minutes of walking just about anywhere. When you’re shopping, for example, walking a lap around the inner perimeter of the mall can be an easy way to get 10 to 15 minutes of exercise in without really even thinking about it. Walk a lap before you start shopping and another one afterward, and you’ve turned your visit to the mall into a workout!

Running, on the other hand, almost always requires a change of clothing and a shower afterward (if you have figured out a way to run at a reasonable speed without sweating, please let me know). Unless you are a member of a gym, running indoors is almost impossible, meaning you will be exposed to whatever extreme weather conditions might be in your area. Obviously those can range from freezing temperatures in the winter to sizzling heat in the summer. Unless you are a hard-core runner, you probably are not going to go to the trouble of changing into your running gear, showering when you’re done and changing back into street clothes.

Lastly, be careful when you look at those charts which compare the number of calories burned between running and walking. While it is true that running burns more calories per minute, many people cannot run long enough to achieve the maximum benefits. For example, if you can only run for 10 minutes but you can walk for 45, you might actually burn more calories by taking a brisk walk.

In closing I will just mention the extra strain that running puts on your joints, knees and feet compared to walking. If this is a factor for you, by all means consider walking.

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