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Does Running Burn More Calories than Walking?

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Updated May 26, 2014

Three people running in the late afternoon.
Chase Jarvis/Taxi/Getty Images
Women Walking with Water Bottles in Hand
© Terry Vine / Brand X Pictures / Getty

Is it a myth that runners burn more calories than walkers? It just makes sense - all that sweating and huffing and puffing must mean more calories are being burnt, right? Actually, the difference in calories burned per mile or kilometer is very small, and there is no difference at higher walking speeds.

Measuring Calories Burned

Research on the metabolic equivalents (MET) of various activities ranks each activity by calories per kilogram per hour. Just sitting quietly burns 1 MET. If you weigh 150 pounds, that is 68 calories per hour.

A runner and a fast walker, both at a speed of 12 minutes per mile or 5 miles per hour, achieve the exact same 8 MET. Their calories per mile and calories per hour are identical.

Walking at various speeds burns between 2 and 8 MET. Running at various speeds burns 8 to 18 MET. That sounds like quite a difference, but you have to take into account the length of the workout. Do they run for a set number of miles, or do they run for a set period of time? It makes all of the difference.

Calories per Mile

Between the speeds of 5 and 9 miles per hour, runners expend almost the same calories per mile. The METs are higher for faster speeds just to reflect that they will go more miles in that same hour. This assumes they will run for an entire hour, rather than doing a set number of miles.

Walkers also see very little difference in calories per mile at walking speeds between 2.5 and 4 miles per hour. While they burn the same calories per mile as runners if they can go 5 mph, they burn fewer calories per mile at slower speeds. They can easily make up that difference in a workout by going further in distance.

Calories per Mile for 160 Pound Person

Walking
2.0 mph - 91
2.5 mph - 87
3.0 mph - 85
3.5 mph - 83
4.0 mph - 91
4.5 mph - 102
5.0 mph - 116
Running
5.0 mph - 116
6.0 mph - 121
7.0 mph - 119
8.0 mph - 123
9.0 mph - 121
10.0 mph - 131
Walking Calorie Calculators

Weight is a Big Factor for Calories Burned

The numbers above are very different if you weigh 100 pounds or 250 pounds. Weight is part of the equation. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn at every speed. But this is something we can't easily change. If you wear a pack or weighted vest that adds 20 pounds, you only increase your calories burned per mile by about 11-12. It would be far better and easier to just walk an extra 2-5 minutes to burn those same calories. Why risk straining yourself?

Should I Go Faster?

If you can build up your walking speed to 5 mph, or 12 minutes per mile, you will be at the top calorie burn per mile and achieve the same burn as a jogger. If you are a runner, you don't get any calorie burning benefit by going faster than 10 minutes per mile or 6 mph.

Should I Go Longer?

The further you walk or run, the more calories you burn. You get the most benefit by adding distance to your workout, whether you walk or run.

Should I Add Weight?

You will burn more calories per mile at every speed by weighing more, but it is a very small difference and not worth the risk of strain. Every extra pound means more pounding on your feet, ankles, knees and hips. It is better to walk or run further than to add any weight.

Should I Walk or Run?

If you enjoy running, you can burn calories in less time and be done with your daily workout sooner. Many people enjoy the higher heart rate and the burst of happy brain chemicals it produces. But for others, running is a grind that they have to force themselves to do. In order to get any benefit from a workout, it has to be one that you enjoy and will do day after day. If you love to run -- run. If you hate to run but love to walk -- walk. You will just need to spend more time walking to go the distance you need to burn the calories you want to burn.

From Walking to Running: Add running intervals to your walking workouts.
Walking Calorie Calculators

Source:

AINSWORTH BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, Irwin ML, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, O'Brien WL, Bassett DR Jr, Schmitz KH, Emplaincourt PO, Jacobs DR Jr, Leon AS. "Compendium of Physical Activities: An update of activity codes and MET intensities." Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32 (Suppl):S498-S516.

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