Walking 5km Vs Running 5km – Calories Burned, Muscles Worked and Impact on Joints Explained

Walking 5km Vs Running 5km (1)-min

What’s the difference between walking 5km and running 5km… or pretty much any distance for that matter?

We’ve got the lowdown on things like calories burned, muscles worked and impact on your joints when you walk and run 5km, so you can decide which one is best suited to your fitness goals.

Quick Summary

  • Running burns more calories per minute, but walking takes longer, so total calories burned is closer than you might think.
  • Walking is easier on the joints.
  • There are exercises to help reduce the impact of running on your joints (hip/knee stability and strengthening).
  • Listen to your body when doing any type of new exercise.

Walking 5km Vs Running 5km – Key Considerations

Calories Burned

One of the most significant differences between walking and running 5km is the number of calories burned. Running, due to its higher intensity, generally burns more calories than walking.

For instance, a person weighing 70kg (154lbs) might burn approximately 300 calories running 5km at a moderate pace.

On the other hand, walking the same distance might burn around 200 calories.

This is because running requires more energy as you are moving your body against gravity at a faster speed.

While walking is less than running, it’s important to remember that walking is a slower activity. This means that although you might burn fewer calories per minute, you’re burning calories over a longer period.

Calculating Calories Burned

Most calculations for calories burned are estimates. Factors such as your weight, age, gender, genetics, and other attributes can influence how many calories you burn. So, while running 5km typically burns more calories than walking, the exact difference can vary depending on these sorts of factors.

Muscles Worked

Both walking and running engage the major muscles in your legs, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

But, because running is a more intense activity, it typically works these muscles harder than walking.

When you run, your muscles have to generate more force to propel your body off the ground. This can lead to greater muscle strengthening and conditioning compared to walking.

Running involves a larger range of motion than walking, which can help improve flexibility and joint health too.

Walking shouldn’t be overlooked as a way to work your leg muscles though. Walking, especially at a brisk pace or uphill, can still provide a good workout for your legs.

(Our recent guide on hill sprints highlights how the gradient of the terrain changes muscle activation, regardless of whether you’re running or walking).

Impact on Joints

The impact on your joints is another important factor to consider when comparing walking and running.

Running is a high-impact activity, meaning it places more stress on your joints, particularly your knees, ankles, and hips.

Each time your foot strikes the ground, your joints must absorb the impact.

This doesn’t mean that running is bad for your joints. In fact, running can help strengthen your joints and connective tissues… but the higher impact does mean there’s a greater risk of injury, especially if you have pre-existing joint problems or if you run with poor form.

On the other hand, walking is a low-impact activity, making it a good option for people with joint issues or those who are new to exercise. It still provides a good workout for your joints, helping to improve their strength and flexibility, but with less risk of injury.

Reducing the Impact on Joints

Instead of avoiding running and higher impact activities, you can include exercises like tib raises, petersen step ups, clamshells and banded side steps, to improve hip and knee stability.


Speed is another key difference between walking and running 5km. Naturally, running is faster than walking. This means you can cover the same distance in less time, which can be an important consideration for people with busy schedules.

It may sound obvious, but when comparing walking 5km vs running 5km, this means you’re going to finish the 5km quicker by running.


Exertion refers to how hard your body is working during an activity, and it’s another important factor to consider when comparing walking and running 5km. Running is a more intense activity than walking, which means it requires more effort and results in a higher level of exertion.

When you run, your heart rate increases more than it does when you walk, which means your cardiovascular system is working harder. This can provide a more intense workout for your heart and lungs, helping to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

But, the higher level of exertion also means that running can be more tiring and requires a higher level of fitness. If you’re new to exercise, it may be more manageable to start with walking and gradually increase your intensity as your fitness improves.

Walking, on the other hand, is a less intense activity, but it still provides a good workout, especially if you walk at a brisk pace or include some hills in your route. Similarly, because it’s less tiring, you may be able to walk for longer periods, which can help improve your endurance.

Which is Better – Walking Vs Running?

When it comes to deciding whether walking or running 5km is better, it really depends on your individual circumstances, including your fitness goals, health risks, and personal preferences.

Fitness Goals

If your goal is to improve cardiovascular fitness or lose weight quickly, running may be the better option.

Running burns more calories in a shorter amount of time and provides a more intense workout for your heart and lungs.

If your goal is to increase endurance, reduce stress, or get started with regular exercise though, walking could be a great choice. This is because its less intense, so you can do it for longer periods, and it’s a great way to ease into a regular exercise routine.


Running has a higher impact on the joints and a higher risk of injury than walking.

If you have joint problems, are overweight, or are new to exercise, walking may be a safer option.

With proper form, appropriate footwear, and a sensible training plan, running can be safe and beneficial for most people though.

Weight Loss

Both walking and running can help with weight loss by burning calories. However, because running is more intense and burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, it might help you lose weight faster.

That said, walking for longer periods can also burn a significant amount of calories, and it might be more sustainable and enjoyable for some people.

You could also wear a weighted vest, or use Nordic walking poles, to boost calories burned when walking as well.

Personal Preferences

Finally, your personal preferences should play a big role in your decision. If you enjoy running and it makes you feel good, then it’s likely a good choice for you.

On the other hand, if you prefer the slower pace of walking and find it more enjoyable, then walking is probably the better option. The most important thing is to choose an activity that you enjoy and can stick with in the long term.

Incorporating Walks and Runs into Your Workouts

Good fitness routines include lots of variety, so when it comes to deciding between walking or running, why not mix and match, so you get the benefits of both.

Progress Your Walking

Weighted Vest Walking

Adding a weighted vest to your walks can significantly increase the intensity of the exercise. The extra weight forces your muscles, particularly in your lower body and core, to work harder to carry the additional load.

This increased effort can help to burn more calories and build more muscle, enhancing the overall benefits of your walks.

When starting with a weighted vest, it’s important to begin with a light weight, perhaps around 5% of your body weight. As your strength and endurance improve, you can gradually increase the weight.

(Don’t let the weighted vest impact your posture though… this suggests its too heavy).

Nordic Walking

Nordic walking is a variation of walking that involves using specially designed poles, similar to ski poles. The poles are used to push off with each stride, which engages your upper body muscles, including your arms, shoulders, and core.

This can help to increase the intensity of the exercise, burn more calories, and provide a full-body workout.

To get started with Nordic walking, you’ll need a pair of Nordic walking poles, which are available in different sizes. It’s also a good idea to learn the proper technique, either by watching instructional videos or taking a class, to ensure you’re using the poles effectively and safely.

Walking with Ankle Weights

Ankle weights can add resistance to your walks, making your leg muscles work harder with each step. This can help to strengthen your legs and increase the intensity of the exercise.

Ankle weights can also help improve your balance and coordination, as they force your body to adapt to the added weight.

Start with light weights, and ensure they’re securely fastened to prevent them from moving around. It’s also important to pay attention to your body… if the weights cause any discomfort or change your movement too much, it’s best to remove them.

Warm Up

Even if you’re walking, we’d recommend taking some time to warm-up and stretch before going on a 5km walking. This will reduce the risk of injury and help improve your movement paths.

Bottom Line

Whether you choose to walk or run 5km will likely depend on your personal fitness goals, health considerations, and preferences.

Both offer significant health benefits, from burning calories to strengthening muscles.

If you’re looking for a more intense workout, running may be the way to go. However, if you prefer a lower-impact activity, walking can be a great choice. Remember, the best exercise is the one you enjoy and can stick with consistently.

So, whether you’re lacing up your running shoes or strapping on a weighted vest for a walk, the important thing is that you’re moving and staying active.

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