Incline Walking vs. Running: Choosing the Best Cardio Workout for You

The difference between incline walking vs. running

Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of a well-rounded fitness routine, offering numerous health benefits such as improved heart health, increased stamina, and weight management. When it comes to cardio workouts, both incline walking and running are popular and effective options. In this article, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of incline walking vs. running, discuss factors to consider when choosing between the two, and provide tips for incorporating these workouts into your exercise regimen.

The Benefits of Incline Walking

Incline walking, or walking uphill, can provide a challenging and efficient cardiovascular workout. Here are some of the key benefits of incline walking:

Low-impact exercise: Incline walking is a low-impact workout, which means it places less stress on your joints compared to high-impact exercises like running. This makes incline walking an excellent option for those with joint issues, injuries, or those new to exercise.

Improved muscle engagement: Walking uphill requires more effort from your lower body muscles, such as your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. This increased muscle engagement can help improve strength and tone in these areas.

Calorie burning: Incline walking can burn more calories than walking on flat terrain due to the added challenge of walking uphill. This can be beneficial for those looking to lose or maintain weight.

Enhanced cardiovascular fitness: Incline walking increases your heart rate and works your cardiovascular system more than walking on a flat surface. This can help improve your cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of heart-related health issues.

Versatility: Incline walking can be performed outdoors on hills or indoors on a treadmill with an adjustable incline. This makes it a convenient and accessible workout option for most individuals.

The Benefits of Running

Running is a popular and effective cardiovascular workout that offers numerous health benefits. Some of the advantages of running include:

Calorie burning: Running typically burns more calories per minute than incline walking, making it an efficient workout option for weight loss or maintenance.

Improved cardiovascular fitness: Running is an excellent way to increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular fitness. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health issues.

Increased bone density: Running is a weight-bearing exercise, which means it can help increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. This is particularly important as we age and our bone density naturally decreases.

Endurance and stamina: Regular running can help improve your endurance and stamina, allowing you to perform daily activities more easily and engage in other forms of exercise for longer periods.

Mental health benefits: Running has been shown to release endorphins, which can help improve mood and reduce stress. Many runners also enjoy the meditative aspect of running and the sense of accomplishment it provides.

Drawbacks of Incline Walking and Running

While both incline walking and running offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential drawbacks associated with each form of exercise. By understanding these drawbacks, you can make informed decisions about your workouts and take steps to minimize potential risks.

Drawbacks of Incline Walking:

Slower calorie burn: Incline walking typically burns fewer calories per minute compared to running. If your primary goal is to lose weight quickly, you may find that running is a more efficient option.

Limited cardiovascular challenge: While incline walking can improve cardiovascular fitness, it may not provide the same level of challenge as running. For individuals seeking a more intense workout, running may be a better choice.

Overuse injuries: Although incline walking is low-impact, it can still cause overuse injuries, especially when done excessively or with improper form. It’s important to listen to your body and incorporate rest days and cross-training to prevent injuries.

Drawbacks of Running:

Higher impact: Running is a high-impact exercise, which places more stress on the joints and increases the risk of injury, particularly for individuals with joint issues or pre-existing injuries. Incline walking may be a safer option for those who need to minimize joint stress.

Greater risk of injury: Running can lead to injuries such as shin splints, a runner’s knee, and stress fractures, especially when done with improper form or without adequate rest and recovery. It’s essential to follow proper running techniques, gradually increase your mileage, and allow your body time to recover between workouts.

Not suitable for everyone: Running may not be appropriate for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as severe joint problems, cardiovascular issues, or respiratory concerns. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a running program if you have any concerns.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Incline Walking and Running

When deciding between incline walking vs. running, consider the following factors:

Fitness level: If you are new to exercise or have a lower fitness level, incline walking may be a more appropriate starting point. As you build your fitness and endurance, you can gradually transition to running or incorporate a combination of both incline walking and running into your workouts.

Joint health: For individuals with joint issues or those recovering from injuries, incline walking is generally a safer and more comfortable option due to its low-impact nature.

Personal preference: It’s important to choose a workout that you enjoy and will be more likely to stick with over time. If you find running too intense or uncomfortable, incline walking may be a better fit for you.

Time constraints: If you have limited time to dedicate to your workouts, running may be a more efficient option, as it typically burns more calories per minute than incline walking. However, if you prefer a longer, low-intensity workout, incline walking can still provide significant health benefits.

Weight loss goals: While both incline walking and running can contribute to weight loss, running generally burns more calories, which may help you reach your weight loss goals more quickly. It’s essential to combine cardiovascular exercise with a balanced diet and strength training for optimal weight loss results.

Training goals: If you are training for a specific event, such as a marathon or obstacle race, incorporating running into your exercise routine is crucial. However, incline walking can also be an effective form of cross-training to help improve your endurance and strength.

Tips for Incorporating Incline Walking and Running into Your Exercise Routine

To get the most out of incline walking and running, consider the following tips:

Start gradually: If you are new to incline walking or running, start with a moderate incline and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness level improves. This will help prevent injury and allow your body to adjust to the added challenge.

Warm-up and cool down: Always spend 5-10 minutes warming up before your workout and cooling down afterward. This can help prepare your muscles for exercise, reduce the risk of injury, and aid in recovery.

Mix it up: To prevent boredom and keep your workouts challenging, consider varying the incline, speed, and duration of your incline walking or running sessions. You can also try incorporating interval training, alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery.

Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your workouts accordingly. If you experience pain or discomfort during your incline walking or running sessions, reduce the intensity or switch to a lower-impact exercise until the issue is resolved.

Combine with strength training: For a well-rounded fitness routine, include both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Strength training can help improve your overall fitness, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance your performance in incline walking and running.

Stay consistent: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Consistency is key to achieving your fitness goals and maintaining your progress.


Both incline walking and running offer numerous health benefits and can be effective components of a well-rounded fitness routine. When choosing between the two, consider factors such as your fitness level, joint health, and personal preferences. 

Incorporating a mix of incline walking and running may provide the best of both worlds, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of each while minimizing the drawbacks. By gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts, listening to your body, and staying consistent, you can achieve your fitness goals and enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

Similar Posts