What burns more calories - running or walking?

how to burn calories in menopause running in menopause walking in menopause Mar 21, 2024

What burns more calories - running or walking?

Running versus Walking: Finding Fitness Joy in Menopause and beyond. 

In my 20's and 30's I, like many of us I suspect, thought of exercise as something that would do one of two things for me....

Burn up the calories


Make me thinner

Or if I was really lucky - both!

I don't think I was very different from many others who were constantly told how to 'get thinner legs, a flatter tummy or a shapely bum' whilst at the same time being bombarded with ads selling ready meals promising 'only 300 calories' - things that I now realise were full of salt, sugar and all sorts of additives designed to make me feel full up - for about 10 minutes!

But a family tragedy when my brother was killed in an accident changed all this. In my grief stricken state I signed up to run the London Marathon, having only ever run 200 or 400 meters at school, and overnight I became 'a runner'. 

Suddenly my focus was all about miles, and how fast I could run them, or how many I could do.

And it's fair to say, I became quite good at Marathon running, my final one was 90 minutes faster than my first, a respectable 3 hours 45 minutes.

I loved my running so much that I qualified as a running coach and I have dedicated the last 25 years to helping women discover a love of running in a way that feels right for them - slow, fast, flat or hilly, it doesn't matter.

And during that time, and especially over the last 11 years working as a menopause fitness expert, I have come to see that for most women in our 50's, 60's and beyond, that the journey to fitness isn't about calorie burn.

Or getting thinner legs.

It's about finding peace and joy in the exercise we choose, nourishing our bodies, and learning to embrace the changes that come with age.


What burns more calories, running or walking?

But I am still asked on a regular basis - Sam, what burns more calories, running or walking?

So in this vlog, I aim to share some geeky facts of running and walking, talk a bit about calorie burn, and more importantly, emphasise the importance of enjoyment and overall health during this transitional time of life.


Understanding Calorie Burn 
As a running coach, I've often been asked about the calorie-burning benefits of running versus walking.

So here's some statistics to think about ... 

A 63kg woman running at a 9-minute mile pace can burn approximately 367 calories in 30 minutes, while the same woman might burn about 167 calories walking briskly for the same duration.

But hey, unless you've been a runner for some years, running at 9mm pace is not easy, especially not for 30 minutes, in which case that brisk walk is much more appealing! 


The Mechanics of Running and Walking
As a running coach who has worked with countless women, mostly complete beginners, I know it takes a while to find a rhythm and style that suits each person. How you land matters, how big your stride is matter and how well you use your arms also plays a big part. Some women take to it easily and others always dread 'running day' and despite what you might think, their age and size doesn't always predict their ability. Walking - especially power walking, when you pump your arms to propel you forward, increase your stride length and speed, is a full body workout but with less impact through the knee, hip and ankle joints, this makes it more accessible to individuals of all fitness levels.


Calorie Burn Comparison: Running vs. Walking

Ready for another statistic?

A steady 5k run might burn around 300 calories for our 63kg woman, but a power walk over the same distance could burn anywhere from 250-330 calories, depending on the terrain.

It's not just about the numbers; it's about finding what works best for you and while running might burn more calories per mile than walking, it's essential to prioritize sustainability and enjoyment in our fitness routines. 


So what are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Running and Walking? 
I guess I'm a bit biased in my answer but they are both hugely beneficial options for men and women, of all ages. 

But with the decline in hormones - especially Oestrogen, in the peri to post menopause years, women are at far greater risk of bone loss, muscle wasting, poor heart health, tiredness, lack of sleep, and low mood and both options have been proven to help alleviate ALL of these symptoms to some extent.

So yes, running, especially if you are being coached by someone who doesn't understand your individual needs, may come with a higher risk of injury, meaning you might need to stop or at least take a break from it, and walking  provides a low-impact alternative that can still yield significant benefits for muscle and bone health.


But I dribble when I jog! 
One thing women are still uncomfortable talking about, is the change in the strength of their pelvic floor muscles. Where once they could dance, run, trampoline and even do star jumps, safe in the knowledge that nothing would dribble out, the decline in oestrogen in our pelvic area means that safety net may well be reduced, or non existent.

Clearly in this situation running isn't going the be the prefered option, but power walking offers a great alternative and done in conjunction with advice from a WHP or Pelvic Health specialist, can even improve pelvic floor strength for some.  


So what exercise is right for women in menopause? 
The simple answer to this question is - the One You Love, because you'll keep on doing it and look forward to it but it's important to remember that both running and power walking fall under the heading of Cardio exercise, and women in menopause need to focus on two other types of fitness in addition.

  • Strength training for bone and muscle health.
  • Restorative exercise for reducing stress and down regulation the nervous system - you can read more about that here. 








And finally 
The days of thinking that thin is better are long gone, it's time to focus on long term health and positive aging. There is ( virtually) nothing you shouldn't do, instead focus on the things that bring you joy and never how many calories you have 'torched' in your workout. 

Whether you choose to run or walk, do it because you love it, not because you're chasing numbers. Enjoy the scenery, the company, and the feeling of strength and vitality that comes with staying active.


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