Is walking better than running?


Nutritionist and personal trainer Ginny McArthur examines the pros and cons of running and walking.

I am a runner at heart. I love to run. I get an endorphin hit from running that puts me on an awesome high. There is nothing quite like it.

At the moment I am injured. Again. Whoever said that running is an activity you get to do between injuries was talking about me!

So, I was thinking about walking. I was counselling a client the other day who was struggling with her weight loss and not meeting her goals. When I told her she needed to do more cardio, she was horrified and told me she hated running. “That’s fine,” I said. “You don’t have to run, just get out there and walk.”

“Huh? Walking is hardly cardio,” she replied. How wrong she is. Walking is one of the most effective exercises for weight loss, fitness and improving your ‘head space’. You have to walk briskly though; both heart rate and respiratory rate need to be raised. On a perceived rate of exertion you need to be at a 7 out of 10 – 10 being a manic power walk. You need to be able to hold a conversation but be a little breathless while you are doing so.

As it happens, I never used to be a runner. I once rode horses for a living and didn’t run at all, unless it was some sort of emergency and I had to. One day my personal trainer said to me while I was on a treadmill, “and now Ginny, you are going to run”. Because she was controlling the speed, I didn’t have any choice in the matter! I realised I hadn’t run properly in years; not since I had to in PE at school. It felt awkward and unnatural. Born to run? Not me! Anyway, I persevered and before I knew it I was running 10km on the treadmill.

Then I had to have a back operation and running was out of the question (in fact I was told I could never run again, because of the jarring). So I had to walk. Around this time I was also training for a body sculpting competition. For me to get down to 55kg and 10% body fat required a lot of cardio.

I couldn’t run, I loathe the bike and the crosstrainer, so I walked off my body fat for the show.

I walked for 60 minutes in the morning, did my weights during the day and walked for 60 minutes at night, sometimes in the dark around my horse arena.

It worked and I competed and kept up my walking afterwards for fitness, weight control and my head space. I only started to run again many years later when I found I couldn’t walk my half marathons any faster and so I started jogging a bit and of course before I knew it I was running marathons – but that is a whole other story!

My point is – if you can’t, or don’t, want to run, don’t. The benefits and rewards of walking are just as strong and the results in terms of weight loss or fitness are enormous.
Get some good shoes and get out and hit the pavement or the trails. Just walk and enjoy it; you don’t need to run.

From the editors at Good Health Choices