Running or walking.
Which one is better?
The answer should be obvious. But let’s do a deep dive on both sides of the coin.
The superior exercise might just SURPRISE you.
Running Or Walking – Which One Is Better?
Let me clear something up right away. I’m not anti-cardio.
As always, there are levels. This is coming from coaching thousands of people by proxy for almost a decade now.
You can really only expect the average person to workout 2 to 3 times per week. That’s just the reality of it.
What I’m trying to say is if you only have time to focus on one type of exercise, the option is resistance training to build and maintain muscle.
What are the benefits of having more muscle? And, there’s so many. For starters, you’ll have a faster metabolism. Which means you can eat more.
This is why muscle is your metabolic currency. It’s what pays for the dance.
Muscle is also the largest site for glucose disposal. Which automatically translates to better insulin sensitivity and protection from all cause mortality, the more muscle you have. That’s why it’s also the organ of longevity.
But if you want optimal health, you need to do some form of cardio.
Here’s what most people don’t know. The health benefits of cardio actually comes from the movement part.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t necessarily come from the calorie counting or extreme endurance part.
The problem with EXTREME cardio
You don’t need to do it in a way that makes you an amazing marathon runner or cyclist. Or that you have a 4 minute mile under your name.
In fact, those extreme efforts can sometimes me antithetical to health. At some point when you’re pushing performance, there’s usually a trade off when it comes to your health.
That type of training has been shown conclusively to increase the risk cardiovascular disease, mitochondrial damage, and accelerated aging. It’s often referred to as the excessive endurance exercise hypothesis.
One of the leading voices on this is a cardiologist named Dr. James O’Keefe. He’s got an eye opening TedTalk called ‘Run for your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far’.
According to him, a surprising amount of seasoned marathoners with six-pack abs and healthy blood profiles are showing increased scarring and thickening of their arterial walls caused by chronic exercise driven inflammation.
Extreme performance endeavours applies to resistance training as well. I’m not just picking on running.
If you meet competitive weightlifters for example lifting stupid amounts of weight, you’ll also find a great deal of joint injury and some dysfunction because they’re constantly pushing for performance.
I experienced that first hand when I used to be a competitive weightlifter. My body felt broken most of the time. I usually had some sort of nagging injury.
The history of marathon running
Fun fact: The idea for the modern marathon was inspired by the legend of an ancient Greek messenger who raced from the site of Marathon to Athens, a distance of about 40 kilometres, or around 25 miles. After making his announcement, the exhausted messenger collapsed and died.
If that doesn’t sound appealing and you’re just looking for health when you do cardio, you actually just need to move at a comfortable pace.
How to do cardio properly
How do you know if you’re doing it properly? You can use Dr. Phil Maffetone’s proven formula of 180 minus your age in BPM.
From a health and longevity perspective, the best form of cardio is walking. Nothing comes close. You’re also guaranteed to stay below your MAF heart rate becasue it easy.
I have a separate video about the amazing benefits of walking so make sure to check it out.
There’s a couple of practical reasons for it. First, we all know how to walk. You’re probably thinking right now, “Thanks, Captain Obvious!”
Most people think they know how to run, swim, row, or whatever. No, you actually don’t. Most people don’t.
Human beings evolved to do a few things really well physically. We’re not the strongest or fastest animals. But we evolved to have this giant brain which is considered to be the complex thing in our known universe.
One of the benefits about having a super computer brain is we can throw with accuracy. That’s why we’re really good hunters.
If you look at sports, a baseball pitcher throwing a 100 mph fastball is quite the feat. We can also out trek most animals. At least the ones that we wanna eat.
When you look at modern hunter/gatherers when they hunt. They’ll hit their prey with a spear and then they’ll chase after it. We’re actually built to run. There’s nothing wrong with running with that perspective.
We were born to run
The Maasai, a pastoral tribe living in Kenya and Northern Tanzania are a perfect example of this.
Their traditional diet consists almost entirely of milk, meat, and blood. Literally the definition of a carnivore diet.
Two thirds of their calories come from fat, and they consume 600 – 2000 mg of cholesterol a day. To put that number in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends consuming under 300 mg of cholesterol a day.
In spite of a high fat, high cholesterol diet, the Maasai have low rates of diseases typically associated with such diets.
They tend to have low blood pressure, their overall cholesterol levels are low, they have low incidences of cholesterol gallstones, as well as low rates of coronary artery diseases such as atherosclerosis.*
My point? Meat, saturated fat, and cholesterol aren’t bad for you. And I’ve debunked the fat phobia myth in my other videos.
But here’s why I never recommend running to the average person. None of us have run since we were kids. That’s just the reality of it.
It’s even more scary with Gen Z kids these days because they’re just inoculated to have a screen on their face at a very young age. Childhood obesity is also skyrocketing.
The forgotten art of running
But we hit our 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, and all of a sudden we think it’s a good idea to go out and run?
It’s just a skill that we don’t have. Our posture is terrible. Our technique is terrible. I’ve seen all sorts of running “technique”. Most of it is bad.
That’s why running is associated with the most injuries whether it’s foot, ankle, shin, knee, hips, back, or all of the above.
The other problem is we don’t really treat exercise like a skill. This applies to all types of exercise. Again, I’m not just picking on running. We usually think of it as a way to burn calories.
When people do cardio, nobody thinks to themselves that they’re gonna get better at running. No. At best, it’s secondary.
Most people think they’re gonna go for a run to burn calories. Yes, it does burn more calories than lifting weights. But that doesn’t matter.
But that’s why people go for a run or do a HIIT workout until they’re completely red lined because they think that’s what’s important. A lot of people train to hurt.
That’s the wrong approach because when you push yourself to fatigue especially if you don’t run well, you’re gonna run even worse.
The problem with mainstream cardio based fitness classes
That’s my biggest problem with cardio based group fitness classes like Spin. It’s too fatigue seeking.
Do that over time and it’s gonna cause big problems. It’s gonna result in poor biomechanics, poor movement patterns, and you’re probably gonna get injured which is the worst.
If you’re gonna start running, treat it like a skill. It’s gonna take you months, if not years to get really good at it.
Never run to fatigue. Because as soon as you fatigue, your form goes out the window. If your technique is trash, you’re gonna turn into hot garbage when you’re exhausted.
Just like if you’re learning how to golf. You never go out and swing as hard as you can. You perfect the technique.
Same thing with martial arts. It’s not about punching the bag as hard as you can. It’s about proper technique.
And if you’re one of these go big or go home, it doesn’t count unless I’m completely exhausted, type of runner. The great endurance runner, Eliud Kipchoge, recently revealed his training method and he usually only trains at moderate effort.
There are obviously exceptions. If you look at societies where people run from birth all the way up. It’s a part of their culture. Kenyan’s like the Maasai for example, running is a part of their culture. Kipchoge is also Kenyan by the way.
Those societies run and they don’t have injuries or anything. They’ve perfected the skill.
But if you look at the average person when they run, it’s not pretty. I’m terrible at it. That’s why I don’t recommend it.
The game changer: Walking
Walking on the other hand is a completely different story. We all walk. If I tell the average person to go for a 10-15 minute walk twice a day, they’re not gonna hurt themselves.
More importantly, you’re gonna get the full benefits of cardio which again is just movement. It’s also easy. You just go outside and walk.
There’s also a dose-benefit response. The more you walk, the better. The benefits get magnified even more if you do it somewhere in nature.
I also love walking because it’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Here’s a pro tip. If you wanna increase your activity level, rather than scheduling a workout, just inject some activity into your day.
For example, after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, go for a 10-15 minute walk. Now you’ve attached walking into a routine that you do every day. It’s easy for it to become automatic. 10 minutes three times a day is 30 minutes.
What you’ll find when you do it that way is great consistency and adherence. Compliance is the science.
Versus scheduling a 30 minute run every single day or a 30 minute workout. It’s so much more daunting.
The AMAZING benefits of walking
Walking after a meal is also great for improving insulin sensitivity and controlling blood pressure.
I’m obsessed with giving this tip because it’s just so mind blowing. A 15 minute walk after a meal has been shown to cut the blood sugar and insulin response by half.
It can also lower your blood pressure by 5 points, independent of any medication. The technical term for it is post prandial glycemia.
We’ve actually known about these benefits for a while now. This isn’t anything new. You’ll find this practice in a lot of cultures worldwide.
If a practice has lasted that long and have survived the test of time. You know that it’s good.
A lot of cultures practice going for a walk after dinner. In Italy, it’s a normal thing. I definitely noticed it when I spent a month there.
A lot of asian cultures also practice it. The Okinawans do it. In the Philippines, there’s actually a term for it. It literally translates to, you should move you might get a stroke.
Also, aside from the glycemic benefits, it also helps with digestion. If you have mild heart burn or indigestion, a 10 minute walk post meal usually helps.
I’m not knocking on other forms of cardio. Anything that gets your but off the couch is good for you.
Cardio just tends to be repetitive by nature. Cycling is the same thing over and over again for example. Same thing with running.
Whatever form of cardio you do, just make sure you have good technique. Because overuse injuries are very common. Again, especially if you’re not physically literate. You don’t wanna get injured.
I can’t emphasize this enough. You don’t need to go to fatigue or feel really sore from a workout. That means you overdid it. The risks don’t outweigh the benefits.
Moderate walks throughout the day combined with a couple of day os resistance training is more than enough to get to your goals.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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