Is running slow equivalent to walking fast in terms of calories burned?

Running can burn a lot of calories and help you lose weight. But what about walking? Can you reach your weight loss goal by walking, too? How do these two activities compare?

Everyone knows a 15-minute run burns more calories than a 15-minute walk. But what if you focus on distance instead of time? How would a 1 km (0.6 mi) run compare to a 1 km (0.6 mi) walk in terms of calories burned?

Running is a more intense activity, so it burns more calories per minute than walking. However, as walking is slower, it takes longer to walk 1 km (0.6 mi) than to run it.

Here’s the dilemma:

Running 1 km (0.6 mi) = more (↑) calories burned per minute, less (↓) minutes being active
Walking 1 km (0.6 mi) = (↓) calories burned per minute, (↑) minutes being active
So, which burns more calories in total?

Many factors influence the calorie burn of both activities (age, weight, fitness level, pace, surface…). But if you compare calorie burn for the same distance, the most important factor is speed.

In theory, there is a speed at which walking and running would burn approximately the same calories (per minute). It is 〜8 km/h (〜 5mph). However, that’s a very fast walking pace only trained race walkers could manage. For the general population, a fast walking speed is 〜5-6 km/h (〜3-3.7 mph). But when you run, 〜8 km/h (〜 5 mph) is a very slow jog.

Now you must be wondering… what about running or walking at different speeds?

Walkers will burn significantly less at slower speeds and runners will, of course, burn more if they run faster.

But here’s the trick:

Once you reach a certain running speed, further increases in calorie burn per minute are minimal. The biggest difference in calories burned can be seen when comparing a 1 km (0.6 mi) slow walk to a 1 km (0.6 mi) fast run.

Why is the difference in calorie burn between a moderate and a fast run so small?

We can walk very slowly, but there is a limit to how fast we can run. The speed increase from a slow walk to a moderate run can be 50-100%. However, the faster we run, the closer we are to our limit. Small increases in speed require a lot of effort but result in only a minor increase in calories burned.

Studies show that running the same distance can burn 〜30% more calories than walking
If you run at high-intensity, you can benefit from additional calorie burn due to the afterburn effect. It’s a good choice if you want to burn more calories in less time.

Don’t worry if running is not your activity of choice, walking has amazing benefits and can help you lose weight as well. Here goes:

  • Due to less intensity, a higher percentage of calories burned comes from fat
  • One hour walks can be relaxing and you can burn 200+ calories
  • Less stress on your muscles and joints
  • You can easily add walking minutes to your day without scheduling a special “workout”

Even if running burns more calories, both running and walking are good activities to help you lose weight. Why?

Because if you reduce your calorie intake (how much you eat), both of these activities can provide enough extra calorie burn for successful weight loss.

Changing your nutrition is what really speeds up weight loss. If you choose healthier foods, learn to prep your meals, and start tracking your food, you will lose weight no matter which activity you choose.

Finally, go running, walking, or both – choose the activity that makes you feel good. That way you are more likely to stay active and burn calories more often! The most important thing is just to do something active!

Check out my related post: Do you pick correct exercises for your body type?

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