Which burns more calories, running or walking?

The answer to that question may seem obvious if you look at it from a time standpoint: it's much exerting and tiring to run for ten minutes than to walk for ten minutes. However, if you think of it from a distance perspective, the question is harder than you think. You could walk five miles in ninety minutes, or run five miles in thirty minutes. Sure it's more tiring running, but you're exercising for three times longer if you walk. Now it doesn't seem like a straight forward question does it?

Jumping to the conclusion: You burn more calories running the same distance than walking, but the speed at which you run doesn't matter as much unless you run very fast.

Here is the plot comparing calories consumed walking and running at different speed (click to enlarge):

191 pounds is the average male weight ages 20-74 years, and 164 pounds is the average female weight ages 20-74 years in the US (source). The calorie consumption per minute for each of the running and walker speeds were taken off the Healthstatus.com website (I entered 100 minutes for each activity then divided to get the extra significant digits).

As you can see, you spend more calories running the same distance than walking, but there is no clean correlation between speed and calories spent. In fact, you spend less calories if you walk briskly or too slowly than if you walk at a normal speed. On the other hand, you spend more calories running slowly or running very fast.

The above comparison falls short, however, since each exercise takes different lengths of time. Since the human body consumes calories while resting (or even sleeping), in the above comparison the runners are not given the benefit of finishing early and burning calories after the exercise.

For the following graph, I set the total time to be 150 minutes (how long it takes to walk five miles at 2 mph) and added the resting caloric consumption for exercises that don't take as long (I chose "reading" off the Healthstatus website since resting wasn't available).


As you can see the benefits of running is now further exemplified by adding the extra resting calorie consumption. Nevertheless, there still isn't much benefit in running fast, unless you run very fast. Of course this completely ignores the benefits of extra time which enables you to do things like lifts weights or blog.

In conclusion, lessons learned from this number crunching exercise:
  1. Run if you can, you burn more calories than walking the same distance.
  2. Don't worry about running fast, unless you run very fast or you want the extra time for something else.
  3. Fast walking is counter-intuitively unproductive. Try to step it up to a light jog.
If you want to play around with this more or just want to double check my numbers, here is the Excel spreadsheet I used to create these charts.

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Answers for the Corporate Intranet

Working for a multi-national corporation bigger than many nation states, there are many times when I'll have questions for people in different time zone who I will never meet. Sometimes these are requests for specific information that needs to be addressed to one specific person, and I'll have to search the corporate website or ask around in the office for his or her contact info. However, most of the time, the questions can be answered by many people, typically in departments very disconnected from where I reside. This may be partly due to my job function, but I've seen it happen with other people in other departments and other companies. E-mails are great tools when you want to communicate with specific people, but they aren't very useful when you don't know who you need to ask.

This is where something similar to Yahoo Answers (or the now extinct Google Answers) would work greatly. If you don't know about those two services (and there are other similar services, I just can't remember them) , I highly suggest reading about them. In short, they are places where a community of users can post and answer questions. Different services have different incentive schemes to get people to answer questions; Yahoo works on a point system where you have to answer questions in order to ask them, Google worked on money. Simply, what's needed is a platform where people in the company can ask questions to a broad audience.

Of course the finer implementation details are what makes or breaks this system. How would you provide incentive for people to answer questions? You could make it a company policy for everyone to answer one question a day, or you could make it part of someone's performance. How do you make sure the right questions migrate to the right people? Yahoo and Google both use categories and subcategories. Corporate departments and organizational charts might be a good starting point for questions taxonomy. A powerful search function would also be imperative to prevent the same questions from being asked over and over. Furthermore, a powerful search function combined with an archive would create a new type of knowledge database for the company.

Last but not least, Answers could also be used to increase social interaction amongst employees and raise morale. Wouldn't it be nice to ask everyone's opinion on what the best restaurant around the office is? A new employee could ask where the best neighborhoods to live are (and then subsequent new employees could use that knowledge in the future).

It will take a lot of iterations and experimentations to get this right, but anything is better than what we have now, the blind search for someone that could potentially answer your question (and hoping that he or she is not on vacation).

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Make your own Lonely Planet

I have no good excuse for abandoning this blog for four months, although I was in South America for a month backpacking where the internet was surprisingly abundant and my excuse even weaker. Like many backpackers, I consider Lonely Planet to be the inseparable travel companion and almost a Bible if backpacking was a religion. Nevertheless, it's not perfect; I can never find a book that covers only the places I intend to go to. This wasn't much of a problem in South America since the South America guide simply had more information than I needed, but when I traveled to Eastern Europe and weaved in and out of some Central European and Scandinavian countries, I had to carry both Eastern Europe and Europe guides (which had minimal information on most of the Eastern Europe countries, and the Baltic chapters were practically unusable). This was three pounds worth of paper that traveled with me for thousands of miles.

The simple solution would have been to tear the book and keep the pages I needed, but when the books cost $30+, that can feel very wasteful. Why can't I just make the Lonely Planet with only the information I want?

Wouldn't it be great if you could simply select the countries you wanted on the Lonely Planet website and make your own book? With this you could easily make a customized book for some interesting trips like the overland Morocco to Japan passage.

Now you (sort of) can. I was actually looking for some images to add to this post when I discovered that Lonely Planet is experimenting with a similar idea which they call Pick and Mix. Instead of selecting the chapters you want and ordering a customized book, you can just buy chapters straight from the Lonely Planet website in .pdf format. Although they claim that the files are not "digitally restricted" they do "contain a tool that allows us [Lonely Planet] to track when and where each chapter is opened and printed." I guess Lonely Planet is scared of piracy too (this has a very similar feel to those user data embedded non-DRM tracks from iTunes).

So far they only have the Latin America guides available; I presume they did this to test drive the service and verify that piracy won't hurt their earnings (The European guides are probably their biggest sellers and also the continent where Pick and Mix makes the most sense).

I would still prefer a customized book than .pdf files for the simple reason that professionally bound books are much lighter and tougher than ones you make at home. No one in their right mind is going to be reading the guide off a laptop (and no one in their right mind will be traveling with an e-book reader, yet) so sooner or later the .pdf files have to be printed out. If you do it at home, you would either print one sided or go through the head ache of figuring out how to print double sided, and it would most likely be on 8.5x11in paper which is too big to be portable. The other option would be to take it to Kinko's but that would quickly add to the cost (and the chapters are surprisingly expensive already). For this reason, I don't think Pick and Mix is going to be popular just yet; there is too much inconvenience involved with making a .pdf file practical. However, it's still a good idea and a step in the right direction.

Currently, I also don't think the publication/printing industry is setup to offer customized books at a reasonable cost. From the little I know about book printing, presses are usually set up to produce thousand copies of one thing, and not thousand similar but different book. If the automotive industry can build cars to meet individual requests, I don't see why the publication industry can't. For how much they complain about the internet ruining their market, they need to accept the facts and innovate to work with the internet, not against it.

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ZA is a blog about ideas: cool ideas, existent ideas, pointless ideas, crazy ideas, my ideas, your ideas, interesting ideas, funny ideas, product ideas, meaningless ideas, great ideas, shrimp ideas, etc. It’s here for people to rant, rave, share, and satisfy. Any idea here (if original) is free for you to use (I take no responsibility) as long as you credit the originator of the idea (be honest). Feel free to send me any ideas, but a blog is considered to be public disclosure so you will lose all rights to patent it. Enjoy.

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