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September 23rd, 2011
12:11 PM ET

Which burns more calories, walking or running?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Asked by Michael from Galesburg, Illinois:

I have read and heard from other people that running and walking a mile burns the same number of calories. I have compared the two on a treadmill and the difference is astounding! Walking = 92, running = 158. I understand that treadmills don't show an accurate count of calories burned, but these numbers are so different. Is this true?

Expert answer:

Hi Michael!

I'm not sure where you heard that running and walking one mile burns the same number of calories, but as you found out with your experiment, this statement is not correct.

Distance itself does not really determine total calories burned. How long you exercise, how fast/hard you exercise, how much you weigh, and your fitness level are the major determinants of calories burned.

According to the website www.caloriesperhour.com, a 200 pound man would burn 113 calories walking 1 mile at a pace of 4 miles per hour (total exercise duration = 15 minutes).

The same man would burn 151 calories running a mile at a pace of 6 miles per hour (total exercise duration = 10 minutes).

And if you were strolling for a mile at a pace of 2 miles per hour, you would burn 113 calories but it would take you twice as long (total exercise duration = 30 minutes).

This may be where the confusion takes place. You burn fewer calories exercising at a lower intensity, but if you exercise for a longer period of time, in some cases, as with walking at 2 miles per hour versus 4 miles per hour, you may burn the same total number of calories.

Exercising at a higher intensity burns more calories per minute, which is much more relevant than distance. In addition, if you weigh more, you burn more calories doing the same activity (this is just something to keep in mind. I'm not suggesting that you gain weight to increase the number of calories that you burn!).

Also, if you are more fit, you actually burn fewer calories doing the same activity, but the good news is that you burn more calories from fat when you are fit.

The bottom line is that more intense exercise, like running, is a more time efficient workout. However, many people, including myself, are not able to run because of injury or arthritis. In this case, exercise as intensely as you can, but realize that you will have to exercise for a longer period of time to burn the same number of calories.

This is why the physical activity recommendations for adults are either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) per week or 75 minutes of vigorous (running or jogging) physical activity per week in addition to strength training.

You can also try walking on an incline (or hills) to increase calorie burn or alternating running and walking (interval training), which is great for people just starting a more intense exercise program or looking to improve their overall fitness level.

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soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. John

    I saw this article http://blog.wannabuddy.com/2011/02/aerobic-benefits-of-walking.html and started a daily walking routine! The walking is great for my health (I started seeing improvements after about 2 weeks) and I can walk rain or shine. I don't need special clothes or a gym membership. If the weather is bad, I just visit the local mall and do a few laps. Usually I walk with a friend and get to catch up on their life, too. Running is too hard on my knees and I'm too out of breath to talk with a friend, so it is definitely walking for me!

    September 23, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Good!

      September 23, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
    • paganguy

      Here is another proof that "experts" only pretend to know.
      If you want to burn fat, walk. A 3 hour or longer hike really starts to burn fat.
      Running burns and damags muscle tissue but doesn't burn much fat. In addition running will destroy your knees. Luckily the knees will go before your brain. Runner's high is caused by a pain killer produced in your brain to lessen the pain.
      Walking, swimming, cycling doesn't give you runner's high. Don't run, but walk, swim, ride a bike.

      October 3, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • teresa

      ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......???

      October 17, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    Anyone who uses the excuse that "running in too hard on my knees" needs to look into ChiRunning. Unless you have a specific condition or injury, you are most likely not running correctly. Humans are designed to run.

    September 23, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Really

      Are you really that stupid?

      September 23, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      How ignorant can you be? Somebody that thinks somebody else is making an excuse is ignorant. If a person can't run they can't run. At least they are out doing the right thing unlike many other people. They know their abilities and you don't so don't be so quick to judge.

      September 23, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse |
    • D

      There was probably a better way to phrase your suggestion.

      September 23, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • The_Mick

      Don't make ridiculous statements like that! I ran from being a teenage into my 50's. I coached high school track & field and cross country. I taught people who ran incorrectly how to run correctly. But I can't run frequently today. Now, with my operated-on, scarred, Achilles tendons, I can run – but then my tendons ache for a week. So I cycle: it's easier of my joints and I don't ache the next day. I burn about 1/3 the calories per mile compared to running, but ride for 10-25 miles, so burn the calories I would if I ran 3-8 miles.

      September 23, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
    • Mahna Mahna

      You could say the same thing about eating, jumping, killing - we were 'designed' to do all of those things, but only at appropriate times, including running. If you're not in danger or in a hurry, you have no need for running. Walk to work/store/friend's house and that's all you need to stay fit.

      September 24, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
    • paganguy

      Eric, your are lucky. Your knees will go before your brain. Than you will start riding a bike. The only good runnig is when you don't land on your heels.

      October 3, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • huhhmm

      I agree. I don't run more than 3 times a week for a total of around 15miles. Running works out your legs arms back and legs really well. I've found to lesson the shock on your knees, don't land with your legs straight. Always have your feet landing slightly in front of you with your knees bent. Kind of like your about to sit on a chair. You will feel your ham muscles behind your thigh really get a workout.

      April 3, 2014 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  3. The Pope

    This is exactly why I prefer to drink beer, watch tv ( preferably Manswers ) and eat potatoe chips. This counting calories c**p is too much work.

    September 23, 2011 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • roumen tomanov

      Maybe you should learn how to spell "potato" since you like eating them so much (I would suggest looking at the bag) and you are obviously of the couch variety.

      September 23, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
    • The Pope again

      Maybe you should look up the meaning of the word satire, tomatoehead

      September 23, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
  4. Jane Lyncherinio

    I prefer 75 minutes of groups** per day.

    September 23, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. clark10b

    the confusion comes from the formulas for energy expenditure per distance as taught in any basic physics course. it teaches distance moved for a unit of mass (so whether you walk or run doesn't make a difference on energy used). So, I would assume from your answer that high intensity exercise within the human is less efficient than low intensity exercise ... is this correct?

    September 23, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buggerlung

      Not true. Basic physics teaches that work is force times distance. Force is mass times acceleration. Acceleration is distance divided by time squared. So for the same mass and distance if you change the time you change the amount of work. In this case work is inversely related to time squared. As the time becomes shorter the amount of work to move the same mass the same distance increases. In other words physics teaches us that it takes more energy to move the mass from point a to point b in 30 minutes than it does in 60 minutes. Assume you weigh 50 kg and want to cover 1600 meters in 6 min (360 seconds). You would need to expend 50 * 1600^2 / 360^2 = 988 Joules. Now assume the same weight and distance but do it in 12 minutes (720 seconds). You would need to expend 20 * 1600^2 / 720^2 = 247 Joules. Less than half as much energy to do it in twice as much time. Thus, in reducing the time by 2 you are increasing the energy required by 4. That is what happens when you divide by the square of a number.

      October 12, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
  6. axkick

    the fact someone could even ask this question is laughable. no wonder there are so many overweight people. of course more calories are burnt running. i used to be one of those people who said "I can't run." total BS. yeah, it's hard at first and you can't breathe and your side hurts-but try pushing yourself and build up slowly to longer times and you might surprise yourself. running / jogging will give you 10x the benefits of walking. no pain no gain.

    September 23, 2011 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Disturbing

      More calories are burned if you run further – otherwise the difference is marginal compared to walking. Running increases stamaina but not calories burned. It is laughable that you didnt know this considering your condescending manner.

      September 23, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse |
    • nimrod

      See the comment by Clark 10b immediately above your comment. In fact, physics teaches us that to a great extent it takes the same amount of energy (see kcals) to move a given amount of mass over a given distance. Clearly, this doesn't hold completely true for biological systems, but the difference is negligible if the level of effort as measured by heart rate is about the same. You also might want to read up a bit on the old saw about "no pain, no gain".

      September 24, 2011 at 00:31 | Report abuse |
  7. Leo

    I've got lupus and an old knee injury, and I STILL RUN. Maybe not as far as I once did (I once did half marathons), and maybe not as fast as I once was (as fast as 6-minute miles), but I still run. My sister SWORE for years that she couldn't run, and just over a year ago she finally stopped making excuses. She's run four half-marathons already, and is training for her first marathon. She did her first 20+ mile training run yesterday. Added bonus? She lost 80 pounds. NO EXCUSES, people.

    Here's why running burns more calories, mile per mile: Think of your body like a car. The faster you push your car beyond a certain point, your gas mileage starts to get worse. Burning calories is like burning gas. The faster you push your body, your "efficiency" goes down, but if your goal is to burn calories, then that's what you want. Faster/more intense exercise challenges your muscles and forces them to become stronger. Lean muscle mass BURNS CALORIES even at rest! So... stop being a wimp. Unless you've got severe arthritis, degenerative bone disease, muscular dystrophy, or another severe health problem that actually does make it physically impossible for you to run, stop with the excuses.

    Now, if you're happy being slow and squishy, hey, that's on you. It's your body, and you can do whatever you want with it. I won't judge you for that. But I WILL judge you if you say "I can't" or you make dumb excuses. You CAN. Most of you just don't WANT to. It's much easier to be lazy.

    September 25, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mari

    OBAMA IN 2012 ! ! !

    September 26, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Mari, put your crack pipe down and focus on the subject at hand.

      October 19, 2011 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  9. doc

    Amazing! Dr Jampolis finds a citation that suspends the laws of physics! Work, as defined in physics, is expressed in joules, as are calories. Work is defined as the amount of force applied over a distance. Therefore, as strictly defined walking and running cost the same amount of work- period. Since our bodies are not machines there are other factors; the elevated heart rate and metobolism from strenous work persists after the fact, so that a runner burns more calories even after the run, than does a walker. Further complicating the matter is that many organisms have optimal modes of transport. A great example is a Kangaroo- they can store energy in the tendons of their legs and so hopping is not only faster, but often more energy efficient than is walking for them. All sorts of permutations are present.But the fact remains that it takes the same amount of energy (claories) to move a given mass over a given distance, AND that what that amount is , is completely independant of the speed at which the work occurs. SHame on you doctor.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buggerlung

      And what is force? Mass times acceleration. If you want to cover that distance faster, then it takes more work than to cover it more slowly. In this case the distance in the equation is staying the same but the acceleration (and thus force) is not, so the answers are not the same. In other words, it takes more energy to move the same mass the same distance in less time.

      October 12, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
  10. aersixb9

    I prefer sports for exercise, either amtgard, or other forms of contact sparring. I also eat good, no dairy and plants + meat. Boxing and hunting are good sports, although making meat isn't legal so i poach for exercise too, typically small squirrel-sized animals with a cheap crossbow at least a few miles outside teh city :P

    also if you slide the car thru every turn it's good exercise.

    October 17, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. teresa

    ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......?

    October 17, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mike Roberts

    Let me get this straight: You are saying that number of a calories you burn moving the same mass (your body weight) over the same distance (1 mile) varies by speed traveled??. I don't think so. You are performing the same amount of work in both instances (moving your body weight the same distance!!). Assuming that your muscle movement in running approximates the same muscle movement in walking (no extraneous arm or let whipping, no excess vertical movement, etc.) it is the same work. Yes, your heart rate will increase, so too your breathing and BP, all of which are good, and that might provide some minor increase in calorie burn. And yes, at a faster pace you can burn more calories in you alotted workout time. But your linking to some bs website for proof that calories burned varies that dramatically is bogus.

    October 31, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. karan

    http://www.google.com

    November 7, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Bob0121us

    Why is everyone so mean and making fun of other people for spelling, being lazy or whatever? All this from a simple question. Don't you haters have something better to do with your time?

    I personally prefer running, and I'm not an expert, but from experience I burn a whole lot more calories and fat from running. It makes sense, to me, since I also sweat a lot more too. When my back or knees hurt, I walk at lunch to make up for not running.

    March 22, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Amit

    This answer is wrong. Simple physics equation will show that it takes the same amount of energy per distance unit running or walking. I don't get where this answer is getting its information, but this work to move a mass from point a to b is the same regardless of speed.

    September 15, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VikingGuy

      People are confusing the rate of doing work which is power with energy among other things. Doing work twice as fast takes twice the power, but the same energy (work) is expended.

      And there is no acceleration involved in the basic equation except when converting weight to mass.

      December 17, 2012 at 19:24 | Report abuse |
  16. tomhua

    The e-book website copy to a new browser to open a URL http://www.znjnn.com

    October 2, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. PE Guy

    Running fast and working out at a high intensity level burns sugars and not fat. So when you see people sprinting on a treadmill they are burning sugar and not fat. If you want to burn fat your workout intensity needs to be in your target heart rate, that’s why it is a good idea to use a heart rate monitor while working out. Just an idea.

    November 8, 2012 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      Unless you lift weights beforehand and burn all your available sugar first. Then the interval training burns pure fat and has been shown to be more effective at fat burn that a continuous target heart rate.

      November 8, 2012 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
    • JQP1172

      @ PE Guy:

      While by the book you may be right I'll tell you my experience using empricial data. I have never been able to strip as much body fat as when I started to run 2 years ago. I have NEVER been a lover of running BUT regardless I have always wanted to run better so I just started. And while I am still not a great runner, my times/distances have greatly improved over the last 2 years.

      Pleasant byproduct however, my body fat took a nose dive in fact I eat like a horse, lift weights [for bodybuilding purposes] to maintain my bodyweight but attribute the reduction of body fat to lenghty and intense heart pounding runs.

      November 9, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
  18. Nate Anglin

    What if we walk all day long? Everyones goal, business professional or not should be to maximize their steps throughout the day. It keeps blood flowing and the brain clear. Leave the running as a part of your fitness regime, unless it's best for you to walk (cough, cough bad knees). I just wrote about why walking is SO easy. We should all take advantage throughtout the day.

    http://www.nateanglin.com/walk-more-now-or-youll-hate-yourself-later/

    November 28, 2012 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Phalazo Weight Loss Diet Plans And Natural Stimulants

    That is how to maintain a nice balanced body!

    December 13, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Casey

    I used to run every single day for 3.5 miles last spring/summer but when i lost my pedometer i just stopped ... now i just walk on a treadmill every single day for at least 6-8 miles. I dont know which one is better for fat loss and i really wish someone could answer. I felt way better and fit when i ran though. My legs felt great but my LUNGS felt the best. cant explain it but my breathing was amazing when i was running or even just at rest. Im young (19) but i still want to be healthy and lose about 20lbs. I wish i knew what was better, running 3 miles or walking 6? I know i could get in the habit of running again i love it and it is soooo addictive :) :) the runners high is REAL people and its worth it. Walking gives no high but is it better for weight loss?

    **tip for walking: play video games on a treadmill. That keeps me busy for hours and it isnt a chore ;D

    January 14, 2013 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. John S.

    My tip...do either walking or running. I have done both and mainly run now. Also, get a gym membership. The combination of the two will jumpstart any weightloss program. Of course, you will have to eventually eat well also.

    February 20, 2013 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. Alex Roegr

    Thank you, the best of course is running but nit everyone can do it ! :)

    http://alexroger.net/calories-burned-walking/

    July 27, 2013 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jesse

    Walking at 3.5 MPH will get your heart rate up to the ideal fat burning range. Running and your body needs more readily available fuel like carbs and sugars. Ever see marathoners with shot blocks or gel or gummy bears. It is solely for fuel replenishment. It takes a lot of energy to convert fat to fuel so a more moderate work out is easier on the body to do that.

    Ideally calisthenics P90X, Insanity, crossfit, etc. burn the most calories and during recovery your body can burn fat to provide energy while it repairs muscle. Calories burned in relation to what is eaten is good to know because you don't need excess energy stores.

    May 7, 2014 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 6, 2014 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply

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