In the eternal debate of walking versus running for fat loss, the question remains: which activity reigns supreme? Let us delve into this topic and shed some light on the matter.
Shedding unwanted pounds can be a formidable challenge in the real world, requiring consistency, dedication, and unwavering willpower. However, in theory, weight loss seems simple—hinging on a single concept:
The crux of weight loss lies in maintaining a caloric deficit. In essence, this means expending more calories than you consume through food and beverages. Yet, as we all know, theory and practice do not always align seamlessly.
Exercise serves as an effective means of increasing the number of calories burned in the pursuit of weight loss. Among the myriad of cardiovascular exercises available, walking and running rank high as popular choices for many individuals.
Now, let us address the pressing question: which is superior for fat loss—running or walking? For that, we use the expertise of Dr Sten Ekberg.
Dr Sten Ekberg is a holistic natural health doctor from Sweden, an Olympic decathlete, specialised in education in nutrition, physiology and functional medicine. He has a YouTube channel with over 2.8 million subscribers where he uploads videos talking all about health and wellbeing.
See below what he had to say on the matter.
Running vs Walking: Which is Better for Fat Loss?
As always, Dr Sten Ekberg takes into consideration many variables when looking at fitness, health and wellness.
You should know that there are a couple of points to consider to understand when running is better for fat loss and when walking is the better option.
First, there are two types of activity a person can do: aerobic and anaerobic. The first is, according to the doctor, any activity that keeps your heart rate below 120bpm, or “anything less than huffing and puffing.” Anaerobic is when your heart rate is between 140-160bpm.
Walking is assumed to be an aerobic activity. When doing that, “you’re going to burn the vast majority of your fuel from fat, especially if you’re fat-adapted.”
As you cross into anaerobic exercise, from walking to running, from breathing normally to huffing and puffing, there is no longer enough oxygen in your body to provide to maintain this biological system – this is when glycolysis begins, it is when the body starts breaking down glucose (carbs) to fuel itself.
According to Ekberg, you can only burn fat up to the aerobic threshold, then the mechanism cannot increase any longer.
One other important question is how long can you keep doing the exercise. “If you can go a lot longer, you can burn a whole lot more fat,” Ekberg explains. He also talks about cortisol, blood sugar, insulin resistance, growth hormone and hunger cravings.
Ultimately, “the clear winner is walking,” Ekberg says when it comes to losing fat. However, that does not mean you should stop running. There are many benefits to it.
Those who should be running are:
- Fit people
- Lean people
- Insulin people
- People who enjoy running and to vary
Those who should consider walking more:
- Overweight people
- Unfit people
- Insulin resistant people
- Getting healthier
Check out the video below for his full explanation.
Walking is a fantastic exercise for fat loss due to several reasons:
- Calorie Expenditure: Walking, especially brisk walking, is an effective way to burn calories. The number of calories burned depends on factors such as speed, distance, and body weight. While the exact calorie expenditure varies from person to person, walking can help create a calorie deficit, which is essential for fat loss. To maximize fat burning, it’s recommended to walk at a brisk pace for an extended duration.
- Accessibility and Low Impact: Walking is a low-impact activity that puts less stress on your joints compared to high-impact exercises like running or jumping. This makes it suitable for people of various fitness levels and ages. Additionally, walking requires no special equipment, and you can do it virtually anywhere, making it highly accessible.
- Increased Fat Utilization: Walking predominantly relies on fat as a fuel source. During low to moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, your body primarily utilizes fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent exercise choice for fat loss, as you are directly targeting stored body fat.
- Preservation of Lean Muscle: Walking helps preserve lean muscle mass while losing fat. This is important because muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories at rest than fat does. By preserving muscle mass through walking and incorporating strength training exercises, you can maintain a higher metabolic rate, which aids in long-term fat loss.
- Sustainable and Consistent: One of the key factors for successful fat loss is consistency. Walking is a sustainable activity that can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Whether you walk outdoors, on a treadmill, or even during your breaks at work, it is an activity that can be maintained over the long term, leading to gradual and sustainable fat loss.
- Mental and Emotional Benefits: Walking not only has physical benefits but also contributes to mental and emotional well-being. It can reduce stress, improve mood, boost creativity, and increase overall mental clarity. By enhancing your mental state, walking helps reduce emotional eating and improves adherence to healthy lifestyle choices, facilitating fat loss.
While walking alone may not provide rapid fat loss results compared to intense exercises, its combination with a balanced diet and other forms of physical activity can be highly effective for overall fat loss and weight management. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified fitness trainer to design an exercise program tailored to your individual needs and goals.