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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is Walking Just As Good As Running?

Everyone knows or has met runners.  Whether they run on the open road or on the treadmill they can go the distance.  My daughter easily does 4 miles on the treadmill and I have many relatives that enter 5K and more races.  I also used to be a runner but now focus on bicycling and long walks.  So are walks healthy and can they be as good for you as running?

The key seems to be how much energy is expended.  If you walk for a good distance and burn up the same calories as a jogger who jogs 1-2 miles, then YES, walking can give you the same health benefits. 

What are those health benefits?  Lowering your risk of heart disease, less risk of hypertension, less risk of diabetes. 

As article in the December 2013 issue of Tufts’ Health and Nutrition Letter, outlined the many health benefits of walking.

Dr. Nelson, a professor at Tufts is quoted, “A 150 pound woman will burn 80 to 100 calories for each mile she walks.”  

The researchers looked at data from 15,945 participants in the National Walkers’ Health Study and 33,060 participants in the National Runners’ Health Study.  What did the study find?  Yes, runners did reap great health benefits with lower risks of hypertension, less unhealthy cholesterol, and less incidence of diabetes.  But the walkers also reduced their risk of diabetes and heart disease.  (Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction).  In an interview, an author of the study, Paul T. Williams of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, noted the key is the number of calories burned in each activity, “walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits … because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities. (Walking IS as good fyoru your health as running - but you'll need to do it for longer to get the same benefits longer to get the same benefits)

But to get the benefits, one needs to walk the distance a runner would run.  Thus, walking around the block won’t have much benefit.  Walking the mile or two or more reaps the rewards.  Many people won’t be able to walk a mile right away, especially if they have been sedentary.  But start small and begin walking.  If at first it is just right the block then at least that is a start. 

Source:  Walking as Good as Running, If You Have Time,  Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, December 2013. 

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