Written by Michelle Alford for Knee1
The top two reasons people exercise are to improve their health and lose weight. Power walking can be as beneficial, or even more beneficial, than running in these two categories. Walking also has the additional benefit of putting less stress on your joints and being less likely to cause injury.
Power walking burns as many calories per mile as jogging and only slightly fewer calories per mile than running. Since it’s easier to sustain a walking pace than a running pace, beginning exercisers are often willing to walk further than they’re willing to run. It’s also easier to slip speed walking into your daily routine. You can power walk to or from work and during your lunch break without needing to change or shower.
Cardiovascular health is most improved by sustained aerobic exercise three to five times a week. Running pushes your heart rate higher, but the majority of runners sustain their target heart rate for a shorter period of time than walkers. Power walkers should invest in a heart monitor to ensure that they keep their heart rate within their target range while walking.
The primary benefit of walking over running is that it puts less stress on your joints. You are far less likely to strain your ankle or seriously injure your knee while walking. Walking is always a better choice if you are recovering from an injury or already have joint issues because it aggravates the injury less.
Despite the prevalence of the expression “no pain, no gain,” it is actually important to avoid pain while exercising. Sometimes, you will need to push through mental fatigue; however, if the exercise is actually causing physical pain, then you need to stop. Continuing an exercise that is hurting your body can cause permanent damage or lead to expensive surgeries.
The most important thing to consider when choosing an exercise program is how likely you are to continue the program and exercise regularly. There are many running groups and marathons that can motivate runners to improve their performance and exercise regularly. Many runners also feel exuberant and energized upon finishing their run. Others feel miserable every time they force themselves to run, and disappointed in themselves every time they skip running. If you find yourself procrastinating and regularly skipping your run, then power walking is probably a better exercise for you.
Regardless of which program you choose, start slowly and don’t force your body to do more than it’s ready for. You may discover that a walking program currently fits your needs best, but in a year you will prefer running.