Running and walking are two of the most accessible forms of exercise. You do not need anything but a decent pair of shoes to get started. If the weather is nice, all you have to do is head outside for trip down the street or around the track. When the weather is bad, head to the gym and jump on the treadmill. But is one of these straightforward exercises superior to the other? When it comes to running or walking, the best choice depends on a few factors.

Walking Pace for Exercise

Walking for fitness is different than taking a leisurely stroll. How fast you should walk when aiming to get in shape depends on age, gender, and general fitness level, as well as terrain. For example, you have to move faster on flat ground to burn as many calories as you do walking up hills. Generally, a good pace is somewhere between 3 to 3.5 miles per hour. Or, aim to complete each mile in 17 to 20 minutes.

Walking For Exercise adamkaz / Getty Images


Running Pace for Exercise

Beginners should run at an easy pace. Many factors affect how this is defined, however, including age, fitness, running experience, and terrain. For new runners, it's a good idea to run slowly enough so that you are still able to carry on a conversation. As your body becomes conditioned to the movements, your endurance will increase and you will be able to run faster without gasping for breath.

Jogging Running Pace courtneyk / Getty Images


Recommended Amount of Running and Walking

The American Heart Association's physical activity guidelines are based on the vigorousness of the activity. Walking at a pace of at least 2.5 miles per hour is considered moderate intensity. Running is considered vigorous activity. For adults, the AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. By these guidelines, running is twice as efficient as walking.

Amount of Exercise Time Pekic / Getty Images


Calories Burned

The calories burned when walking or running varies from person to person. On average, someone weighing around 180 pounds walking at a brisk pace of 3.5 miles per hour for one hour burns about 300 calories on a flat surface or about 490 uphill. On the other hand, a 180-pound person burns about 340 calories when running at a pace of 5 miles per hour for 30 minutes. In this case, running burns more calories in half the time.

Number of Calories Burned filadendron / Getty Images


Target Heart Rate

No matter what kind of exercise you do, it is important to know your target heart rate, which is based on age. To find it, subtract your age from 220; this is your maximum. So, someone who is 40 years old has a maximum heart rate of 180. When doing moderate activity, aim for a heart rate between 50 to 70% of this number. Our 40-year-old example has a target heart rate of between 90 and 126 during brisk walking. For vigorous activity, the range is 70 to 85% of the maximum, or 126 to 153. Walking and running have opposite hurdles to overcome to maintain a target heart rate. With walking, it is easy for your heart rate to fall below the target zone. With running, it can be difficult to keep your heart rate from getting too high.

Target Heart Rate hocus-focus / Getty Images


The Real Difference Between Walking and Running

It is easy to think that the only difference between walking and running is pace. While it is important to consider your speed in each exercise, pace alone does not determine whether you are running or walking. The real difference lies in how the feet make contact. No matter how fast you walk, one foot is always in contact with the ground. When running, there is a point during each stride where both feet are off the ground. This is a huge difference because it affects impact, which is a catalyst for injury.

Feet Off the Ground PeopleImages / Getty Images


Risk of Injury

It is no surprise that walkers have less chance of injury than runners. At most, walking has a 5% risk of injury. Running raises this risk to 70%. Possible running injuries include plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, stress fractures in the foot, shin splints, sprained ankles, Achilles tendon rupture, meniscus injuries, ACL injuries, runners knee, strained hamstrings, hernias, back pain, and more.

Running Injury Risk praetorianphoto / Getty Images


The Right Way to Run

It is possible to lower the risk of injury when running. Flexibility is important, so experts recommend proper stretching. It is also essential to warm up before a run and allow your body to cool down after. Increase your mileage and speed gradually, because it is not good for your body to push too hard, too fast. Wear proper running shoes and pay close attention to your gait. Having your feet and stance evaluated by an expert can ensure you're moving in the best way for your physical health.

Stretch Before Run AzmanJaka / Getty Images


Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Running?

Studies show that too much running may be just as dangerous as not getting enough exercise. Jogging several times a week at a reasonable pace may be much better for your body in the long run. The Copenhagen City Heart Study found that the lowest mortality rates were in those who jogged between one and 2.4 hours every week. Fast-paced runners and sedentary non-runners had comparable mortality rates.

Excessive Running Risks Tempura / Getty Images


Which Is Better?

Running is a more intense activity that burns more calories, but it also carries a significant risk of injury. Walking is an easier way to get started with a regular exercise routine but does not have the same overall benefits as moderate running. Ultimately, the best option is the one that you are going to be motivated to continue doing. Whichever helps you meet your activity goals for the day is the right choice for you.

Healthy Exercise Routine kali9 / Getty Images


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