Why Running Burns More Calories Than Walking

Some people believe that using walking or running to lose weight is basically the same thing because they think that they both burn the same number of calories per mile. However, this simply isn’t true.

This belief is probably more down to hope than judgement because as we all know walking is MUCH easier than running.

Do they really believe that a 3 mile steady walk could burn the same energy and the same number of calories as a 3 mile gut busting run? It just doesn’t make any sense.

The theory behind this thinking is that whether you run or walk for a mile you’re still carrying the same weight over the same distance which results in your body using the same energy.

Therefore you should burn the same number of calories whether you’re using walking or running to lose weight. It’s a nice theory, but unfortunately this is wrong! And here’s why…

When walking, your centre of gravity remains at a fairly constant height above the ground. In other words you walk along fairly smoothly with little upwards or downwards movement.

When running, your centre of gravity varies much more. You have to lift your weight and push yourself off from the ground, and when you land your body lowers as your knees bend to absorb the shock.

It takes a lot of energy to keep lifting yourself into the air like this, and that’s why the number of calories burned running is greater than walking.

This explanation clearly shows that the calories burned running or walking depends on the horizontal distance that you move plus the vertical distance, rather than just the horizontal distance alone.

The equations below can be used to calculate the number of calories burned running and walking, as adapted from "Energy Expenditure of Walking and Running" ("Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise", December 2004).

In this study researchers measured the calories burned running and walking over 1600 metres (around a mile) on a treadmill for 12 women and 12 men. The average calories burned running was 105 for the women with 74 calories burned walking. The men burned 124 and 88 calories.

The men burned more calories than the women because they averaged a heavier weight.


Gross calorie burn per mile = 1.65 x weight (kg)
Net calorie burn per mile = 1.39 x weight (kg)

Gross calorie burn per mile = 0.75 x weight (pounds)
Net calorie burn per mile = 0.63 x weight (pounds)


Gross calorie burn per mile = 1.17 x weight (kg)
Net calorie burn per mile = 0.66 x weight (kg)

Gross calorie burn per mile = 0.53 x weight (pounds)
Net calorie burn per mile = 0.30 x weight (pounds)

To learn more about the difference between gross and net calories burned take a look at Calories Burned Running where you’ll also discover why you should avoid the "more miles are better" mindset.

As well as burning more calories, running also has other advantages over walking. For example, because it’s a harder form of exercise your fitness will improve much quicker which means that your ability to burn calories also increases.

In other words, you can complete more exercise at a much higher quality level and therefore it becomes easier for you to burn calories and lose weight.

Running is also a quicker form of exercise than walking which means you can cover the same distance while saving plenty of time. Or you can run for the same time as what you would normally walk, and therefore cover more distance and burn many more calories.

Now that you know why using running to lose weight is much more effective than walking take full advantage of this and make running a big part of your life.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with walking to burn calories and help you along the way but it just makes more sense to focus most of your time and effort on using running to lose weight.


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4 Responses to Why Running Burns More Calories Than Walking

  1. Santo says:

    I am interested in starting to run i am 62 yrs old do you have any pointers on how i should get started. what should my hart rate be when i run so i dont over do it ( traing Zone)

    • James says:

      If you are concerned about over-doing it with your heart rate it’s best to check with your doctor first before starting running. If they give you the all clear then you should be ok.

      You should still aim build up the difficulty level though, rather than maybe going from no running to then going really hard.

  2. Linda says:

    Thanks James for the advice,i look forward to your emails.