A person running behind a person cycling

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We all know we should be doing cardio. But what kind of cardio is best? The truth is whatever kind you’ll regularly do. There are pros and cons of all forms of cardio.

Current guidelines advise you to get a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (or 75+ minutes of vigorous activity). This is a minimum, you should strive to achieve more (about twice as much).

The Benefits of Cardio

There are numerous benefits of cardio. Overall, almost all cardio will offer the following benefits:

  • Improvements to many bodily functions:
    • heart health
    • mental health
    • immune system
  • Weight benefits:
    • Increase weight loss
    • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Additional benefits
    • Increased stamina
    • Extended lifespan
    • Manage (or prevent) chronic illness/disease

What Kind of Cardio?

Running is the standard of cardio. There are numerous benefits of running: it’s easy to start, can be done anywhere, and by pretty much anyone. To learn more about running, check out these posts:

This post is going to compare running to three other forms of cardio:

  • Running vs Cycling
  • Running vs Jogging
  • Running vs Walking
A bike parked on the beach

Running vs Cycling

Running and cycling are probably the most comparable in terms of cardio efforts and benefits.

If you exercise at the gym you’ll have access to treadmills and cycles for doing either indoors. Some gyms might offer a track for running (indoor, outdoor, or both) and many gyms offer spin classes (which are cycling).

If you want to exercise outside, cycling is going to be a bigger investment. You’ll need a bike and helmet (at least).

Benefits & Risks of Running vs Cycling

Running and cycling will both provide all the usual benefits of cardio. The additional benefits are not the same.

While both exercises use the legs heavily, the muscle development differs. Running will help you strengthen and tone muscles. Cycling will help you build muscles.

The risk of injury is greater for runners than cyclers. But, cyclers are at higher risk of lower back pain. Also, cyclers who use the street are more likely to be involved in a car accident.

Running vs Cycling: Calories

Running (usually) burns more calories than cycling. 

However, most people can cycle for a lot longer than they can run and can maintain faster speeds on a cycle. This can more than make up for the lower calorie per minute burn.

Running vs Cycling for Weight Loss

Either is a great form of cardio for weight loss.

An important thing to note is that weight loss will mostly come from a healthy diet. Learn about 13 popular diets and choose the best one for you!

Which is better: Running vs Cycling?

This is a choice you have to make. Personally, I like indoor cycling (like spin class) and outdoor running.

However, cycling does require more equipment than running. You’ll need a bicycle (either for indoors or outdoors). IF you’re cycling outdoors you should wear a helmet (please – protect your brain).

A person running along the coast

Running vs Jogging

The difference between running and jogging is how fast you’re going. Running is defined as faster than 6mph (9.6km/h).

Benefits & Risks of Running vs Jogging

The benefits of jogging and running are similar.

However, running slightly increases your risk of injury. The faster you’re moving, the more likely you are to get injured.

Running vs Jogging: Calories

The faster you move, the more calories you burn. Therefore, running burns more calories than jogging.

Here is how many calories a 150 pound (68 kg) person would burn in 10 minutes:

  • 5 mph = 91 calories (jogging)
  • 6 mph = 113 calories
  • 7 mph = 130 calories (running)

Running vs Jogging for Weight Loss

As you can see above, jogging burns fewer calories than running. This means that running will be better for weight loss.

Which is better: Running vs Jogging?

There’s no better/worse here. Both offer benefits. The better choice for you is the one you’ll do.

Also, you don’t have to choose one. You can incorporate some running into your jogging (or vice versa). Add sprinting or jogging to a run.

Two dogs running through very shallow water

Running vs Walking

You might be thinking that this a completely unbalanced comparison. And you’d be partially correct.

The problem with a “running or nothing” mentality is that many people will do nothing. Walking is a viable form of cardio exercise.

Check out how it compares to running.

Benefits & Risks of Running vs Walking

Walking will provide most of the same benefits that running does, at a reduced rate.

There is no recommended maximum for walking. Walk all you want and you’ll be okay. Too much running, on the other hand, can be harmful. If you run too much (over 4 hours per week), you start to reverse the benefits and dramatically increase your risks.

Runners have a higher risk of injury than walkers. That’s because running is a high impact exercise, whereas walking is considered low impact. The more intense your running is, the greater your risk of injury will be.

Running vs Walking: Calories

Walking will burn significantly fewer calories than running – at most, walking will burn half as many calories as running.

If you don’t want to run, you can increase the calorie burn of walking in a couple of ways.

  • Speed/Power Walk: speed/power walking is when you’re moving at speeds greater than 3mph (4.8km/h). The faster you walk, the more calories you’ll burn. You’ll still burn fewer calories than if you were running, but you’ll increase your heart rate which will increase your cardio benefits.
  • Wear a Weighted Vest: a weighted vest shouldn’t be heavy. Start with (at most) 5% of your body weight. If you don’t want to buy a vest (can’t blame you), you can carry something light (dumbbells, rocks, water bottles, whatever).

Running vs Walking for Weight Loss

Walking is not a great exercise for weight loss. However, it does burn more calories than doing nothing. 

Running burns a lot of calories, which makes it good for losing weight if you don’t overeat. A lot of people experience post-run hunger and they eat everything in sight.  Don’t let that be you!

Which is better: Running vs Walking?

Both and neither – it depends on you. Running and walking are both great methods of cardio. Choose one, or mix them together and follow a run-walk program. It’s your workout, after all.

The Best Cardio?

pinterest pin: a comparison of running vs cycling, jogging, and walking

I hope you’ve realized by now that there is no best cardio. There are cardio options and some are going to be better than others in certain situations.

The challenge is for you to find the one that’s best for you and your circumstances.

Remember, the best form of cardio (or exercise) for you is the one you stick with.

Let me know your favorite cardio method (mine’s cardio kickboxing or dance classes) in the comments below!

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