Exercise and physical activity play a large role in gaining and maintaining health. But when it comes to hitting the pavement or the treadmill, what’s better? A short run or a long walk?

Treadmills are a hot commodity at the gym, and in the warmer months, you’re bound to see people out hitting the pavement. So it’s safe to say getting your feet moving is a popular way to exercise, although the answer for which is the better choice depends on more than just the stats.

A run seems like the obvious answer, just look at someone running and the effort is clear to see. But there are other factors that go into making a run more effective than walking, and they are based on your fitness level, physical capabilities and also your preferences. In the end, if you don’t like to run, you’re not likely going to stick with it, and being consistent with physical activity is what’s important.

If your goal is to lose weight, but you also don’t have a lot of time, then a run will be more beneficial. You can burn 200 calories running at 6 miles an hour for 10 minutes, compared to a brisk walk for an hour that will burn you 300. If you have any physical limitations or other health concerns preventing you from running, then you can still effectively burn calories with an interval-style run-walk or lower impact walk. 

If you can work up to running (try a program of power walking that progresses into walk-jog intervals), you’ll be getting more health benefits than just burning calories. Vigorous exercise also helps protect your heart against disease and ramps up your metabolism, plus running asks more of your muscles, so you’ll be increasing their strength and capacity in the process. The downfall is that with the impact of running you’re adding two times your body weight on to your weight-bearing joints, and doing too much too soon, or overtraining may increase your risk of injury.

Ultimately the better option between running and walking depends on you, your goals, your physical capabilities as well as your preferences. If you can run and you love doing it, then you’re going to reap the rewards and be more committed. If you prefer walking and have the time to dedicate to it, then that will be the better choice for you.

If you have any concerns about your physical limitations or health issues, speak to your health care professional to work out a choice that will benefit you the most. Whatever you choose is going to be good for you!