Skip to content
Join Life Time
a person ties their shoe

Running is often considered the ultimate exercise — it gets your legs moving and your heart pumping, and it calms your mind. There’s a reason that the feeling of aerobic exercise–induced euphoria is called the runner’s high.

Walking, too, is a fitness darling. Research highlights its numerous benefits: boosting immunity, releasing endorphins, and reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol. Plus, it’s a great way to stay mobile.

“As we age, being able to get around via walking is arguably the most important functional capacity one should try to maintain, making walking consistently throughout the lifespan a great addition to a healthy lifestyle,” says Life Time master trainer and nutrition coach Joe Meier, CSCS, PN2. (Learn more about the health benefits of walking at “The Powerful Health Benefits of Walking.”)

Despite each boasting many benefits, these activities are often pitted against each other because of how much impact they have on joints, with the understanding that walking has less than running.

But less impact doesn’t mean zero impact, warns Alec Blenis, CSCS, CES, PN2, a strength and endurance coach and ultraendurance hybrid athlete.

“Walking has different types of impact [than running],” he says. “The stride is different, and the cadence is different. There’s impact from both running and walking, so I don’t think one’s necessarily better than the other as far as impact is concerned, provided you’ve gradually increased your tolerance for it.”

With walking, it’s possible for most people to increase volume while avoiding injuries to the knees, feet, and ankles. That’s not to say there’s no risk — walking too much, too fast can result in soreness and issues like shin splints and plantar fasciitis — but the risk is typically lower than with running. Running can be trickier to manage in terms of how quickly you ramp up your distance and intensity.

Just keep in mind that “while running does come with a bit more injury risk, less impact doesn’t make an activity better outright — impact stimulates important fitness adaptations too,” Blenis says. “Everyone should be mindful of doing an appropriate amount of impact for their bodies.”

If you increase your mileage slowly and invest in recovery time, either activity can be a great way to get outdoors, socialize, and train the cardiovascular system. “From a general health perspective and a weight-loss perspective, both running and walking can be fantastic,” explains Blenis.

(For a beginner-friendly 5K program, check out “How to Train for Your First 5K.” Not into running? Try this “30-Minute Walking Workout.”)

As much as we try to pit activities or exercises against each other to find the ultimate fitness path, the real answer is that there isn’t one. To explore more exercises that are often pitted against each other, visit “Is There Really a “Best” Workout?,” from which this article was excerpted.

Sarah Tuff

Sarah Tuff Dunn is a Colorado-based outdoors, health, fitness, and nutrition writer.

Thoughts to share?

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Everyone should strive to both run and walk, regardless of age. Not mentioned in the article is that, for reasons not fully understood, walking is the single best exercise for growing new blood vessels. This is important for all, but especially critical for those with heart, stroke, or other vascular problems. Ideally, work up to at least one mile a day if you aren’t already walking regularly. If walking seems too hard at first, try walking a lane in a swimming pool – you’ll get some support from the water to lessen the impact but at the same time also get some resistance. Age alone is not an excuse to avoid running. Look into your state’s Senior Games or the National Senior Games ( to find results of seniors in their 90’s and even 100’s running in the Track & Field events. Start small if you haven’t been running – if all you can do is 5 steps, that’s 5 steps more than you did yesterday – then keep after it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


More Like This

Back To Top