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9 Ways Walking Improves Running Performance

Whether you’re just beginning your running journey or searching for a good cross-training activity, walking has many significant benefits that can help improve your running performance and enhance your physical health. Here’s why you should consider adding walking to your regular training routine.

1. It can improve your performance and endurance.

A woman running with her stroller in a park.

Walking regularly can help you improve your running performance and endurance by providing several significant health benefits. Not only does it improve your cardiovascular health, but it also can decrease cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. One 2017 study found that completing a walking warm-up before a race improved running performance among competitive athletes.1 So, even though walking is a simple and easy way to be active, don’t underestimate its positive benefits on running performance!

2. It’s an excellent form of active recovery.

A couple walking during sunset looking over a cliff.

Giving your body time to recover is essential to any training routine. However, that doesn’t mean you have to just lay around and be lazy while recovering from your weekly runs. Walking is a form of active recovery that helps you burn additional fat and improves the blood flow to your muscles, reducing your overall recovery time and helping you reach your fitness goals faster. 

3. It helps stave off injuries.

A couple walking and smiling together outside of apartment.

Depending on your age and activity level, you may be more prone to injuries than others. But any injury, even a small one, can really derail your fitness goals and activity level. Regular walking strengthens your bones and muscles, reducing your likelihood of developing injuries. It will also help improve your balance and puts less strain on your joints than running does. As a result, you’re less likely to experience knee or hip problems related to running.

4. It increases your energy levels.

A family in workout clothes jumping and smiling at the camera.

It’s not always easy to get up and go out for a run, but walking can help boost your overall energy. It improves oxygen flow, enhancing your body’s ability to function and utilize energy more efficiently. Walking also increases levels of certain hormones in the body that give you more energy, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

5. It may help you sleep.

A woman sleeping on her bed.

Getting a good night’s sleep helps you recover from your training activities and have energy for a full day of activity. Believe it or not, walking can help you get better rest! One 2109 study from the National Sleep Foundation determined that adults who engaged in more moderate physical activity daily, like walking, were more likely to report better sleep quality.2 Although daily walking won’t necessarily help you sleep more, it may improve the quality of whatever amount of sleep you do get, which can help improve your mood, concentration, energy levels, and appetite. Just make sure to aim for 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night for the best results.

6. It’s less intense than running.

A walker on a trail before sunset.

Running is a more vigorous form of exercise and can strain your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system. Sometimes, you might not feel up to the challenge and need less intense physical activity. Walking is an excellent alternative that still provides health benefits but gives you a physical and mental break from the intensity of running. People of all ages, abilities, and skill levels can walk, and it’s an activity you can do year-round, whether you head outside or walk indoors on your treadmill with Vingo. Swapping out a few of your runs for walks can help you stay motivated on the days you do run and avoid burnout.

7. It targets the same muscles you use while running.

Couple power walking in park.

If you’re worried about walking not being a good workout, you can set those fears aside. The action of walking uses the same muscles you use while running, allowing you to work them differently but still get some great exercise. When you walk, your glutes, quads, and core are all still engaged and working hard to keep you upright, balanced, and moving, even if you move a little bit slower throughout your workout. 

8. It can help reduce muscle aches and tightness.

Man stretches before his walk in the woods.

Muscle tightness and achiness can have a negative impact on your running routine, making it more challenging to be consistent and enjoy your training. Scheduling regular walks into your week can help reduce those aches and pains to improve your performance and comfort. If you already struggle with lower back pain, walking is a much better alternative to bed rest, which could actually delay your recovery. Research supports the idea that walking is an effective way to prevent and reduce low back pain.3

9. It can help you maintain a healthier diet that supports your running routine.

Couple eating healthy foods together in their kitchen.

Consistent cravings for chocolate and other sugary foods can quickly derail your efforts to achieve a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. It can also make your runs harder by making you feel more sluggish. Fortunately, one research study from the peer-reviewed scientific journal Appetite found regular walking can help reduce unhealthy cravings for chocolate — an unexpected but fantastic benefit!4 So if you’re feeling snacky and want to reach for a candy bar, try going for a walk instead. You’ll reap all the above benefits and also avoid consuming unnecessary calories.

Key Takeaways:

Walking is an effective form of active recovery that can boost your running performance, endurance, and other related factors like energy levels and mental health. Walking is likely a great addition to your routine if you’re searching for a cross-training activity or another way to stay active.

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Sources:

  1. Zourdos, M. C., Bazyler, C. D., Jo, E., Khamoui, A. V., Park, B. S., Lee, S. R., Panton, L. B., & Kim, J. S. (2016, September 16). Impact of a Submaximal Warm-Up on Endurance Performance in Highly Trained and Competitive Male Runners. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 88(1), 114–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2016.1224294 
  2. Sullivan Bisson, A. N., Robinson, S. A., & Lachman, M. E. (2019, October). Walk to a better night of sleep: testing the relationship between physical activity and sleep. Sleep Health, 5(5), 487–494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2019.06.003 
  3. Kim, H., Min, T. J., Kang, S. H., Kim, D. K., Seo, K. M., & Lee, S. Y. (2017). Association Between Walking and Low Back Pain in the Korean Population: A Cross-Sectional Study. Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, 41(5), 786. https://doi.org/10.5535/arm.2017.41.5.786 
  4. Oh, H., & Taylor, A. H. (2013, December). A brisk walk, compared with being sedentary, reduces attentional bias and chocolate cravings among regular chocolate eaters with different body mass. Appetite, 71, 144–149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.07.015

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