Why run when you can walk?

2013Apr19_ExerciseGeneral_ARunners love to talk about their passion: how far they cover each day, their preparation for the next race and the joys of a runner’s high. Quite often you’ll hear them moaning about their aches and cramps too, but these sprains and pains can be avoided. A new report reveals that a brisk walk might just give you the same health benefits as a run.

Running is an activity that can really change the lives of those who take it up seriously, especially if they’ve been generally inactive before. Running gets you fit, takes you outside and gives you new goals to aim for on a weekly basis. No wonder that running ‘converts’ love to talk so much about their hobby. However, running can cause a lot of wear and tear on the body: shin splints, pulled hamstrings and stress fractures, to name but three complaints. Such injuries can keep you off the road and out of the gym for a few weeks at least. However, a recent study shows that you can still get all of the health benefits from running by simply slowing down a little. A brisk walk might be just as effective, especially when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease and other illnesses.

So, have we been running ourselves ragged when we could be walking ourselves to well being? ┬áThere are few people who would challenge the benefits that come with a good run. Regular running burns off calories and fat, prevents muscle and bone loss and gives you personal time to think things over and de-stress. An occasional ache and pain, is surely a small price to pay, isn’t it?

Conducted by Dr. Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and published in the American Heart Association’s Journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, the study offers hope to people who balk at the idea of a daily five mile run. Dr Williams and his team believe that a brisk walk can reduce the risk of heart disease even more effectively than jogging or running. He and his team of researchers compared data from studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. It seems that for the same amount of energy used, the walkers are overtaking runners in terms of long-term benefits to health.

The study was conducted over six years and the participants came from a wide age range, from 18 to 80. The results are surprising, with findings suggesting that for the same amount of expended energy, walkers get more health term benefits than runners.

  • By taking a run, you reduce your risk of getting heart disease by 4.5% but walkers reduce their risk by 9.3%.
  • When calories are compared, walking also has the edge over running and heart disease risk factors. First time high blood pressure is reduced 4.2% in runners but by 7.2% in those who walk regularly.
  • High cholesterol risk was lowered by 4.3% with the runners and an impressive 7% with the walkers.
  • With diabetes, the figures are about level, as both runners and walkers reduced risk by about 12%.

These results hardly seems feasible at first. During a good run, your heart beats faster, you need need more oxygen to cope with the effort, and stretch with each step. You feel that you are getting much more of a workout than merely walking would provide! This new evidence suggest that the opposite might just be true.

It seems that it the most important factor appears to be the total energy used rather than the intensity of the exercise. A walker would need to do some 4.3 miles at a brisk pace, to have the exercise equivalent of running 3 miles. Of course, this would probably take twice as long. However, walkers are less prone to injury than runners and need less recovery time each week. Walkers can make up the time by walking every day and incorporating walking into your everyday life.

You can take the time during a walk to think things over, listen to an audiobook, learn a language or simply regard your daily walk as meditative time that is purely yours. See your new exercise as a time where you can watch the world as you walk by it and take time to smell the flowers. That’s not to say that you don’t want to include other ways of exercise into your daily or weekly exercise plan. Do you think you could make changes to your routine? Let us help you out!

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