Perhaps it’s the the power of using your own two legs to get from A to B, and fast. Perhaps it’s the head-clearing powers of the wind whipping through your hair as you run along the coastline. Perhaps it’s the excuse to wear fancy leggings.
Whatever it is, there’s something about running that transforms ordinary people into evangelicals. However, appealing as it might seem, running seems like an unreachable dream for many of us. Enter: walking.
A good brisk walk is surely just as effective as a run, we reason as runners smugly dart around us on the footpath. Plus, it won’t mess up my knees.
So, is there a winner in this footpath war? Is running inherently “better” for you than walking, or is walking the underrated dark horse?
As you’ve probably guessed, there’s no simple answer to that question. According to Exercise and Sports Science Australia’s Industry Development Officer, Alex Lawrence, it’s dependent on a number of factors — most of which come down to the individual.
Watch: A bodyweight circuit you can do at home. (Post continues after video.)
“You have the public health standpoint where something is better than nothing. If you’re likely to walk but not run then for that person walking would be ‘better’ and vice versa,” Lawrence explains.
“From an exercise prescription standpoint, I would highlight that everyone is different, with unique considerations and needs, and with that in mind the ‘better’ modality will depend on the individual and their goals.”
In terms of fitness, calorie burn and energy expenditure, most of us would assume running comes out on top. This is the case, but walking doesn’t come off too badly, either.
“In terms of energy expenditure, exercising at lower intensities (walking) results in a higher percentage of fat metabolism,” Lawrence explains.
“However, when you exercise at moderate-high intensity (running), even though the percentage of fat metabolised is lower, because you are expending significantly more energy in total, the overall fat metabolised is higher.”
Yes, you'll burn more calories through running. (iStock)
To put that more simply, Lawrence gives the following example.
"If someone was to walk for 30 minutes burning 100 calories, and if 70 per cent of those calories came from fat, they would have burned 70 calories from fat," he says.
"Alternatively, if that person was to run for 30 minutes, burning a total of 300 calories, 30 per cent from fat, that individual would burn 90 calories from fat. So, in this case the exercise that is higher in intensity wins out."
As for general health benefits, there's evidence that both walking and running can help prevent illness and prolong a person's life. (Post continues after gallery.)