First of all, I am a former runner. I ran in the first LaSalle National Bank 20k here in Chicago about a hundred years ago. I subsequently ran in dozens of similar events and logged hundreds of 10 mile mornings on my own. So, I have no axe to grind against running. Been there; done that. I have since transferred my exercise affections to the bicycle and ride pretty close to daily here in Chicago these days.
Enough about me, what about walking vs running for health? A six-year study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in April found that walking at a moderate pace and running produced similar health benefits, so long as the same amount of energy was expended.
Studies show that how long you exercise and how many calories you burn is more important than how hard you exercise. Running is a more efficient form of exercise, but not necessarily better for you.
Dr. Anthony Goodman in his course Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age writes, “Walking may be a better exercise for many people than running because walkers may be able to sustain their activity more consistently and for a longer period of time than runners.”
The National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study examined the differences in exercise mode and thereby exercise intensity on coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors.
The risk factors were not significantly different for running than walking for diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, or CHD.
Finally, I need to mention that both walking and running are weight-bearing exercises. These are very important for us as we age because they strengthen our bones and help to prevent osteoporosis. I need to augment my cycling to include weight-bearing exercises as cycling which is good cardio exercise is not weight-bearing, so it doesn’t protect against osteoporosis.
For some further benefits of walking and a balanced exercise program please check out my post What is the most balanced exercise program?
Finally, I am firmly against extreme long distance running – like the marathon. You can read chapter and verse on Why you shouldn’t run a marathon.