Running can be a polarizing form of exercise. For every one person who loves it, there’s another who can’t stand it. But what about jogging? Is it just for people who want to run but not fast? Can you like jogging but not like running?
Jogging, like running, is a weight-bearing aerobic activity, but it’s lower intensity and lower impact. If you're considering hitting the treadmill or pavement, see what two trainers had to say about the difference between jogging and running (besides speed), the benefits of jogging, and how to get started even if you’re a newbie.
Meet the Expert
How Does Jogging Differ From Running?
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of jogging vs. running is likely speed—running is faster. Beyond how fast or slow you’re going, it’s also about effort. Aliyah Sims, CPT and trainer of Rumble Boxing and Rumble TV in New York City, says the main distinction between jogging, running, and walking is the pace and intensity.
Mike Thomson, a personal trainer and run coach at Life Time, says you should take a step back and think about the difference between walking and running. “Walking is when there is alway one foot in contact with the ground," says Thomson. "Running is when there is flight; both feet must be off the ground. Jogging is a low-intensity version of running.” Intensity varies from person to person, but Thompson considers low intensity as being able to run while breathing in and out of your nose only, with your mouth closed.
So, What Speed Is Considered Jogging?
Everyone’s range varies a bit, and what one person considers jogging could be what someone else considers running. “For most, 2–4 mph would be a walking speed, and 4–5 mph would be a brisk walk or jog,” says Sims. If you don’t have an easy way to gage your pace, Sims says she personally likes to think of jogging as a happy medium between walking and running, and sometimes even a recovery after an intense run.
Thompson says it’s less about speed and more about intensity. One way to quantify intensity is by using a heart rate monitor and the Maffetone Method, which is calculated as 180 minus your age, resulting in your maximum heart rate during aerobic activity. Thompson says while this is conservative for fit, athletic individuals who have been training for years, it’s a good number to go with for the general population. For example, a 30-year-old should run at a heart rate less than 150, with jogging lower than that.
What Are the Benefits of Jogging?
- It improves your cardiovascular health. As an aerobic exercise, Sims says jogging helps fire up your metabolism, which leads to calorie burn, healthy digestion, blood circulation, and lung health.
- There are mental benefits as well. “Go for a jog, put on an uplifting tune, and tell me how you feel afterward,” says Sims. “Jogging may not be the answer to all of your problems, but it will help bring a sense of clarity, much like meditation does, and will definitely get those endorphins going.” Some studies have shown that physical activity can be effective in lowering the risk of depression.
- It builds bone strength. Jogging can help keep your bones healthy because you’re working against gravity, says Sims. Weight-bearing exercises such as jogging can help make your bones stronger and help mitigate against the adverse effects of bone density loss as you age.
- It’s low intensity. Because it’s a relatively low-intensity form of exercise, you can jog often and improve your running skills, says Thomson. Compared with running, you’re also putting less stress on your body, there are less ground forces (the force of the ground on your body), and you're not producing lactic acids.
- It can improve tendon health. Tendons, like your Achilles heel, connect your muscles to your bones, enabling movement of your body. Thomson says jogging can help improve tendon health in 6–8 weeks. “While you might feel more fit in 2–3 weeks, the tendons take longer to adapt,” he says.
- You burn more fat than running. Faster isn’t always better, depending on what your goals are. Running at a high intensity burns more carbohydrates, but jogging at a low intensity teaches the body to use up fat reserves, explains Thomson: “If you want to get very efficient, you should also eat a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate macronutrient ratio during this time.”
What Can and Can't Jogging Do for Your Body?
Jogging can help you generally stay fit. Similar to walking, jogging can keep you and your heart healthy, says Thomson. It doesn’t require any special equipment, so there is a low barrier to entry. It can also help maintain your body weight, as jogging engages many muscles at once. An exception to this, says Sims, if you are consuming more calories than you are actually burning.
However, if you’re trying to get super muscular, jogging isn’t your answer. It can help you gain muscle mass and strength because you’re fatiguing your muscles, but you won’t bulk up, says Sims. But on the flip side, it also won’t make you lose muscle if you're fueling your body properly. In order to really build your muscles, Thomson says you should supplement jogging with strength training and/or eventually adding higher-intensity sprints. “Jogging only stimulates slow-twitch muscles. For some, that could only be 10 percent of the muscle fibers. Strength training and high-intensity sprinting stimulates many more muscle fibers,” he says.
How Often Should You Jog? And for How Long?
How often and how long you should jog comes down to individual fitness levels and preferences. Sims suggests starting with three times a week, but says it’s up to you and the goals you set. If you’re new to jogging, you can start with a walk and work your way up to a jog. “You definitely don’t want to overdo it if you’re new to jogging, but a good 20- to 30-minute jog is a great range to be in,” she says.
Thomson suggests a walking/jogging protocol where you alternate between the two, if you’re just starting out. “Quantify and track the amount of jogging you’re doing in minutes, not miles,” he says. “The body knows time under tension and intensity, not distance.” He suggests alternating two minutes of jogging with 1- to 2-minute walk/rest, 10–15 times, which will give you 20–30 minutes total of jogging. Do that every other day for a few weeks and then add more days a week as you get more comfortable. He adds one of the benefits of jogging is that you can do it often because of the lower intensity. And, as with other things you train for, the more you do it, the quicker you can improve your skill and mechanics.
What Else Should You Consider?
It’s true that jogging doesn’t require much in the way of gear or equipment, but one thing you should invest in is proper footwear. Sims says she used to hate jogging/running because her feet and shins would hurt, and then she realized she was wearing the wrong sneakers. “Sure, they were cute, but not worth the pain,” she says. If you’re unsure of what kind of shoes are best for your feet, you can get your feet checked at a running store. If you continue to experience pain after buying the proper footwear, you should see a licensed physical therapist for assessment and treatment.
Other than that, Sims recommends stretching beforehand to warm up and stretching or foam rolling afterward to release any tightness. She also says to maintain good posture while jogging by keeping your core engaged to support your back and knees, which can protect you from injury.
Finally, “have fun and don’t set any expectations. If you can walk, you can jog,” says Sims.
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