How many calories are you burning?

Common physical knowledge says that both walking and running will burn the same number of calories per mile. I’m not quite sure where this information first appeared or why it persists today, but I hope to clear up some of the confusion in this article.

Walking and running are perhaps the two most basic and primary forms of human movement. Every able-bodied human being can walk and run and has learned to do so without any formalized training. Compare this to other activities, such as bicycling, swimming, or hitting a golf club, which require more training to perform those movements correctly. This is one of the main reasons why walking and running are two of the best ways to get fit and improve your overall health.

The logic of walking and running a mile burning the same amount of calories makes sense. You cover the same distance, so it should require the same amount of energy, right? Not necessarily. Calorie burn is often closely related to the amount of oxygen you consume. When you are doing continuous exercise you burn about five calories for every liter of oxygen you consume. Running generally requires much more oxygen than walking, even for the same distance.

In an article titled “Energy Expenditure of Walking and Running,” which was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers measured the actual calorie burn of 12 men and 12 women while running and walking 1,600 meters on a treadmill. The results of the study showed the following:

o The men burned an average of 124 calories while running and 88 while walking.

o Women burned 105 and 74.

The men ended up burning more calories due to the fact that they were larger and had more muscle mass.

After seeing these results (running burns about 50% more calories than walking), you may be wondering why there is such a disparity in calorie burn between the two activities. When you walk, your center of gravity moves fairly smoothly with very little vertical movement. If you were to put a pen on your shoulder and walk along a wall, the mark the pen would leave would be quite straight.

Running is actually the act of taking a lot of small jumps in a row. You are actually jumping from one foot to the other. Each jump raises and then lowers your center of gravity. If we were to trace the path of your torso, there would be a lot of vertical movement. This continual increase and decrease in your weight requires a tremendous amount of extra effort above and beyond the demands of walking the same distance.

An important point of this discussion is the fact that there is a difference between the total number of calories burned and the net number of calories burned. Net calories burned is calculated by subtracting the baseline number of calories you burn from the total number of calories burned. Baseline calories are how many calories your body burns just by existing. So if you burn 200 calories on a treadmill workout and your baseline metabolism for the same amount of time is 50 calories, your net calorie burn is 150 calories. This is an important point to remember when calculating calories burned or else you may end up with a grossly inflated calorie figure.

The study mentioned above calculated the net calorie burn of running a 9:30 mile versus walking a 19:00 mile. The men burned 105 calories running and 52 walking. The women burned 91 running and 43 walking. That is, running burns twice as many net calories per mile as walking. And since you can run two miles in the time it takes to walk a mile, running burns four times as many net calories per hour as walking.

This article is not intended for people with a bad mouth. Walking can be a great form of exercise that can have many benefits. This article was intended to dispel the myth that walking and running are the same in terms of calorie-burning ability. As this article illustrates, running is a much more effective form of exercise for burning calories. Walkers may have to walk a little further to reach their goal weight.

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