I’m a fan of both walking and running, but when it comes to this question, it actually leads to another question: What is your goal?
If you look at any person at the peak of their sport, they are as fit as they can be for that sport, but they aren’t really healthy. What they do isn’t optimal for health, and they couldn’t sustain it year round as a lifestyle.
So, the first question you need to ask yourself is do you want to be healthy? And what would you like to be fit for? Because your answer to walking vs running is going to change a lot depending on what your goals are.
For lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and bone disease, walking is just as effective as running. The main thing is that it be brisk walking. And, if you really want to maximise the benefits of walking you could consider hiking or walking with a weight vest.
Running will help you do that and will tend to develop capillaries, increase myoglobin, increase glycogen storage and build mitochondria.
What does that mean in English? Capillaries deliver nutrients to muscles which is why they are important. Increased myoglobin allows your body to shuttle more oxygen off to your mitochondria when you are under aerobic stress and mitochondria are actually responsible for energy production. They are the aerobic powerhouse. They break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats and convert it into usable energy.
And although a lot of those things have benefits that are specific to fitness, rather than health, there is some crossover. Increasing mitochondria is great for your fitness, but it’s also great for your metabolism which carries over into general health and it’s also key to endurance and being fatigue resistant. Capillaries also don’t contract, so you need to move for them to do their job as well.
Those adaptations won’t all happen walking, but you don’t have to run to get those benefits either. A HIIT program or resistance/strength training program will get you the same benefits.
The best question to ask is what is the type of movement that is going to bring me joy? What am I going to want to wake up in the morning to do?
Because the best type of exercise or training, is the type you enjoy. That might be walking or running or weight lifting or yoga or CrossFit or F45 or dance or hiking or bootcamp. Sometimes creating a habit is hard enough, it is just so much easier to build it around something that you love.