June 8, 2023

News to no one: Cardio exercise—you know, the kind that gets your heart rate up—is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Figuring out the cardio workout that’s right for you, however, can be a bit complicated. Let’s start with slow jogging vs fast walking. There’s been buzz in the fitness world about both forms of exercise for quite some time now, which is why we took a deep dive into their respective pros and cons. Read on for the full scoop, and then go forth and get your steps in, friends.
Both walking and running are forms of aerobic cardio exercise that offer significant health benefits, including weight loss and a decreased risk of heart disease. Given that the pace is the same, slow jogging (i.e., jogging at a speed of two to four miles per hour) and speed walking might seem like the same thing, but that’s actually not the case. Believe it or not, jogging at a walking pace—or smiling pace, as Hiroaki Tanaka, Japan’s running guru and founder of the Fukuoka University Institute for Physical Activity, describes it—is more vigorous than power walking.
According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences, the energy expenditure of slow jogging is twice that of walking at the same speed, despite the perceptible effort being more or less the same. So while you might feel a little silly jogging at the same pace as your speed walking exercise partner, you’ll get a better workout (and the last laugh) by doing so. It’s worth noting, though, that slow jogging requires more energy because it’s a higher impact activity, as evidenced by this 1996 study published in Clinical Biomechanics. The science says this has to do with ground reaction force and your center of gravity during jogging, as compared to walking.
We touched on this already, but slow jogging burns more calories than walking at an identical pace, and thus, it is a more effective way to lose weight, if that’s your goal. In addition to the extra calorie-burning effect, slow jogging has all the same heart-strengthening, life-extending, immune-boosting benefits of walking and other forms of cardio.
Fast walking won’t burn quite as many calories as slow jogging, but it will still help you achieve your weight loss goals and improve your overall fitness. Again, research shows that power walking is a lower impact activity with significant benefits for cardiovascular health, including reduced blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood sugar and cholesterol. Bottom line: If slow jogging seems like more effort than you can muster, fast walking is a perfectly fine alternative. (The runner up, so to speak.)
As you might have guessed, slow jogging is always a solid choice—provided you’re in good enough shape to handle the higher impact, that is. Indeed, slow jogging burns more calories, but mostly because it requires more bobbing up and down and results in a lot more vertical force. As such, slow jogging is best for folks whose joints can handle hitting the pavement a little harder. It’s also an excellent alternative to running, as it’s a heart-healthy, calorie-burning activity that’s relatively easier on the body and arguably more efficient, too, since it’s easier to sustain over long distances. In other words, slow jogging may just be the Goldilocks choice when it comes to cardio.
Slow jogging is great—but, as previously mentioned, fast walking has plenty of benefits, too. It’s also a better option for individuals who have a history of joint problems, as well as those who are just starting an exercise routine and aren’t yet in the best of shape (no judgment). Plus, fast walking is a low-key way to get a plainclothes workout in when you’re out running errands—so it’s really never a bad choice.
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