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Fat Loss Facts: Is Walking or Running Better for Weight Loss?

Taren Gesell

If you're just starting on your fitness journey, you may have wondered, "Is walking or running better for weight loss?" As someone who has personally lost as much as 65 pounds through endurance sports, I know how positive impact an effective weight loss program can have on your overall life.

Both walking and running are excellent forms of exercise. Walking is easier for most people to start from scratch when compared to running while running is a high-impact, high-intensity form of exercise that will burn a lot of calories. Walking and running both have pros and cons, and we'll find out the differences between the two today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Both walking and running offer significant health benefits and can be effective for weight loss.
  • The choice between walking and running should be based on your abilities, your fitness goals, and what you enjoy.
  • Consistency and enjoyment are the most important factors in sustaining any exercise regimen for long-term health and weight loss.
  • The key to sustained weight loss is a small and controlled calorie deficit, not extreme exercise or food restriction.
  • Whether you choose to start running or stick to walking is up to you; choose whatever you'll enjoy for a longer period.
Some athletes, like MOTTIV app user Dena, use a run/walk strategy in training and even in their races. Even professional triathletes and pro marathon runners will run/walk from time to time in their training.

5 Benefits of Running and Walking (That Aren't Just About Losing Weight)

When comparing the health benefits of running and walking, it's essential to look beyond just calorie burning. Weight loss isn't everything, but your long-term health is. These activities provide a multitude of benefits that can significantly enhance your life quality and overall well-being.

  1. Boosted Cardiovascular Health: Both walking and running are fantastic for your heart. They help to strengthen the heart muscles, improve circulation, and can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Engaging in these activities regularly can lead to enhanced heart health, lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol levels.
  2. Enhanced Mental Health: Physical activity is a known mood booster. Regular walking and running can help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have shown running is particularly effective at reducing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
  3. Strengthened Muscles and Joints: Regular movement strengthens the body. Running, with its repetitive impact, has been found to build stronger bones and muscles while walking is particularly gentle on the joints, making it a suitable exercise for individuals of all ages and fitness levels.
  4. Effective Weight Management: While running has been shown to cause more weight loss, both walking and running have been proven to be effective at contributing to weight loss.
  5. Longevity: Several studies suggest that those who engage in regular physical activity like walking and running tend to live longer. This is likely due to the wide array of physical and mental health benefits they provide.

Is Walking or Running Better for Weight Loss?

Now, let's tackle the heart of the matter: the effectiveness of walking and running for weight loss. Both are straightforward, require no special equipment, and can be done just about anywhere. But how do they stack up against each other when it comes to shedding those extra pounds?

Which burns more calories: walking or running?

It's generally accepted that running tends to burn more calories than walking. Running is a very high-impact exercise that requires more energy, which in turn leads to higher calorie burn. However, the exact number of calories burned will depend on several factors, including your weight, pace, and the terrain over which you're moving.

While running may provide a quicker path to calorie expenditure, walking might be better for most people. It's more sustainable for many people and can still lead to significant calorie burn when done regularly and at a brisk pace.

Is It Better to Run or Walk for Cardiovascular Health?

Both walking and running are beneficial for the heart, but they serve slightly different purposes. Running's higher intensity can quickly bolster cardiovascular fitness, enhancing lung capacity and strengthening the heart. On the other hand, walking offers a moderate cardiovascular workout that can be sustained for longer periods. It's particularly beneficial for those starting their fitness journey, dealing with health issues, or looking for a low-impact exercise option.

Running is better for increasing peak cardiovascular fitness measures like Vo2 Max, while vigorous walking is better for general heart function with low impact on the joints.

What Are the Differences Between Walking and Running For Weight Loss?

When we break down the differences between walking and running from a weight loss perspective, a few key factors emerge:

Calorie Burn Lower Higher
Impact Lower Higher
Injury Risk Lower Higher
Accessibility Higher (due to ease of starting) Lower
Sustainability Higher Lower (due to injury risk)

Is Walking or Running a Better Form of Exercise to Lose Belly Fat?

The desire to lose belly fat often leads individuals to wonder whether walking or running is more effective. Both can help reduce visceral fat as part of a consistent exercise routine, primarily due to the caloric deficit they help create. Running might lead to quicker fat loss due to its higher intensity and greater calorie burn, but walking is also an effective and gentler option for many.

Neither walking nor running can specifically target losing outer belly fat. Both are effective at reducing fat inside your belly around your internal organs (referred to as visceral fat). However, running with high-intensity interval training (HITT) has been loosely shown to be more effective at losing belly fat than other forms of exercise.

Factors influencing calorie expenditure in walking and running

Various factors affect how many calories you burn during walking and running, including:

  • Your body weight: Heavier athletes will burn per calories than lighter athletes
  • Pace: Running or walking faster will burn more calories
  • How efficient your movement is: Inefficient movements will burn more calories
  • The terrain and incline: Hills and steep climbs will burn more calories

Understanding these factors can help you optimize your workouts for maximum effectiveness.

A marathon can be a super long race to complete, sometimes even finishing after dark. Running happens to be one of the best cardio exercises for losing weight, no matter what time of day you do it.

What are the benefits of cardio exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise is a cornerstone of physical fitness and health. Both walking and running fit into this category and bring with them a host of benefits.

5 Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Your Health

  1. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Cardio exercise can significantly lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It's a crucial element of any healthy lifestyle.
  2. Weight Management: Regular cardio is essential for burning calories and fat, aiding in weight loss and weight maintenance.
  3. Mental Health Boost: Cardiovascular exercise is a natural mood enhancer, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety while boosting overall mood.
  4. Improved Respiratory Health: Over time, consistent cardio can lead to improved lung function, making breathing easier and more efficient.
  5. Increased Longevity: Engaging in regular cardio exercise has been linked with a lower risk of premature death from all causes.

Comparing 10 Popular Forms of Aerobic Exercises for Fat Burn

To provide a broader view, here's a comparison of various forms of cardiovascular exercise and the approximate number of calories burned per hour for each:

Running an Easy Jog (6 mph) 590
Walking (3.5 mph) 298
Cycling (12-14 mph) 590
Swimming (slow freestyle laps) 510
Rowing (moderate pace) 510
Dancing 330
Aerobic Class 480
Jumping Rope 730
Hiking 438
HIIT Varies significantly

Note: Calories burned per hour are approximate and based on a 155-pound person. The actual number will vary based on individual factors and exercise intensity.

High-intensity interval training for weight loss

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an increasingly popular form of exercise known for its efficiency in burning fat and improving cardiovascular health in a short period. It involves alternating between short, intense bursts of activity and periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. HIIT can be applied to various forms of exercise, making it a versatile and efficient way to enhance your fitness routine.

HIIT training is likely better than steady-state exercise for achieving a healthy weight, and it may even be more effective at reducing stubborn belly fat.

Benefits of combining cardio with strength training

While cardio exercises like walking and running are fantastic for burning calories and fat, incorporating strength training can amplify your results. Strength training helps build muscle, which in turn increases your resting metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories even when not exercising. This combination is also beneficial for overall body composition, endurance, and health.

Many leading health organizations are now recommending that strength training be included in all cardiovascular training plans. Our training plans all include guided strength workouts.

FAQ Common Questions About Running vs Walking for Weight Loss

Q: Is walking better than running for weight loss?

A: Both walking and running are great forms of exercise for weight loss. While running is better for weight loss, walking can also be a more sustainable and low-impact option for those unable to run or who want to avoid running injuries.

Q: Is walking better for weight loss than running?

A: Running and walking offer benefits for weight loss. While running burns more calories in a shorter period, walking can be a more feasible and sustainable option for many people, particularly those with joint concerns or those just starting on a fitness journey.

Q: Is walking a great form of exercise for weight loss?

A: Yes, walking is a great form of exercise for weight loss. It is low-impact, accessible to most people, and can be incorporated into daily routines easily. Regular brisk walking can help burn body fat and contribute to a healthier weight.

Q: Is walking more challenging than running for weight loss?

A: While running may burn more calories in a shorter time, increasing the incline and speed of your walking routine can make it more challenging and equally effective for weight loss as compared to running, especially for those who have joint concerns or are unable to run.

Q: Is running better for weight loss than walking?

A: Running burns more calories in a shorter period compared to walking, making it a more efficient exercise for weight loss. However, it's important to consider individual fitness levels, joint health, and personal preferences when deciding on the best exercise for weight loss.

Q: Can walking help with weight loss?

A: Yes, walking can definitely help with weight loss. While it may not burn as many calories as running, walking can still contribute to weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine.

Q: Is walking instead of running better for weight loss?

A: Depending on individual circumstances and physical capabilities, walking instead of running can be a better option for weight loss. Walking is low-impact and can be sustained for longer durations, making it a feasible choice for many individuals.

Q: Can walking be better than running for weight loss?

A: For some individuals, particularly those with joint concerns or at the beginning of their fitness journey, walking can be better than running for weight loss. It's important to find an exercise routine that is sustainable and enjoyable for long-term success.

Q: What are some benefits of walking for weight loss over running?

A: Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be sustained for longer periods, making it a more feasible option for individuals with joint concerns or those just starting on their weight loss journey. It can also be easily incorporated into daily routines and is generally more accessible to people of all fitness levels.

Q: Can incline walking be as effective as running for weight loss?

A: Yes, incline walking can be as effective as running for weight loss. By increasing the incline and speed of your walking routine, you can challenge your body in a similar way to running, making it an effective exercise for burning calories and promoting weight loss.


It's clear that both running and walking provide similar health benefits. Running may offer a more intense, calorie-burning workout, but walking provides a lower-impact, more sustainable option for many individuals. The best choice depends on personal preferences, fitness level, and health considerations.

If you enjoy easy, casual exercise that only requires you to put on your running shoes and head out the door for a brisk walk, then walking is the right choice for you. If you are a more intensely goal-oriented person, enjoy intense exercise, and want to pursue running races, then running is for you.

The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and can stick with consistently. Whether you choose to walk, run, or a combination of both, incorporating regular cardiovascular exercise into your routine is a proven way to improve health and achieve weight loss goals. Remember, the journey to better overall health is a marathon, not a sprint; finding sustainable and enjoyable exercise habits is crucial for long-term success.

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Taren Gesell

| Author

"Triathlon Taren" Gesell is founder of MOTTIV and one of the world's top experts on helping adults become endurance athletes later in life. Best known for his YouTube channel and podcast, Taren is the author of the Triathlon Foundations series of books and has been published featured in endurance publications around the world.

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