Running vs walking (crosspost from Crooked Timber)
With the exception of an unnameable region bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean, posts on diet and exercise seem to promote more bitter disputes than any others. So, in the spirit of adventure, I’m going to step away from my usual program of soft and fluffy topics like the bubbliness of bitcoins, the uselessness of navies and the agnotology of climate denial, and tackle the thorny question of running vs walking.
Happily, and unlike, say climate science, this is a question on which you can find a reputable scientific study to support just about any position you care to name, and even some that appear to support both sides, so I’m just going to pick the ones I like, draw the conclusions I want, and invite you all to have it out in the comments thread. I’m also going to attempt the classic move of representing the opposing positions as extremes, relative to which I occupy the sensible centre.
The first question is whether, distance for distance, running or walking is more energy-efficient. The answer, according to my preferred study, is that if you are not concerned about time the study reported here, is a mixture of walking and resting, averaging about 1.3 m/sec. To achieve moderate average speeds, say a 5-hour marathon, a mixture of running and walking is better than a consistent slow running pace.
Energy-efficiency is usually assumed to be good. But for first-world residents, access to food energy usually isn’t a constraint. If you buy the (highly controversial, as I found out last time I posted on this) view that fat burned is equal to the difference between energy consumed and energy used, then it’s good to seek out energy-inefficient activities.
In any case, it turns out that differences in the energy efficiency of running and walking aren’t really that large. Minute for minute, running burns about twice the energy of walking, and covers about twice the distance. As the CDC says “1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.” And, while running gets it done faster for me, I chew up a fair bit of that time dealing with the aftermath of sweaty clothes and long showers.
So, having promised controversy, I’m going to weasel out and say “Do whatever works for you”. But, do yourselves a favor and get outdoors – April and May are pleasant times of year in every part of the world I’ve encountered, so this advice seems to be applicable for the vast majority of CT readers.