This one might seem like a no-brainer to an experienced runner, but people just beginning to exercise might wonder which is better for weight loss: Walking (low-intensity cardio) or running? While running burns more calories per minute, could it be true that walking for a longer period of time and thus burning equivalent calories will have roughly the same effect?
In fact, the comparative benefits of running and walking are much more complicated than simple calorie math. Studies have shown that runners have lower BMI and smaller waists than walkers, even when their net calories per day are about equal. Another study published in Journal of Obesity showed that walkers ate 50 calories more than what they expended during their exercise, but runners ate 200 calories less than what they’d burned. It turns out that runners had elevated levels of the hormone Peptide YY, which acts as an appetite suppressant.
But this doesn’t mean low-intensity cardio like walking doesn’t have its place. In fact, celeb trainer Bob Harper (of Biggest Loser fame) recommends 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio before breakfast for weight loss. (He also does require a super low-calorie diet AND strength training 5 days a week, natch). And studies show that walkers reap even more cardiovascular benefits (less risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases) than runners, although they expend less overall calories. So if you are looking to lose weight, go for running–and if you want to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, choose walking. But whatever it is, make sure you get moving 4-5 days a week for best results.