Running is perhaps the single all-purpose exercise that’s great for our overall health. Studies have shown that it can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as help with regulating mood and curbing appetite. However, one does not have to run to get the same health benefits from running.
More and more people are discovering the joy and benefits of walking as a light cardio alternative to running. Albeit running is “in the long run” better for weight loss, as shown in a study done at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, its other benefits can also be achieved through walking. Both physical activities can strengthen the heart and prevent heart disease. Additionally, walking can also improve lung functions, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to our body, and lower blood pressure. One study at the University of Oulu, Finland, even found that walking can increase middle-aged men’s good HDL cholesterol level.
According to an article titled “Walking is Good for Your Heart” by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital, a “brisk” walk of 3 to 4 miles in an hour is sufficient to reduce the risk of heart disease by 40%. But how can a relatively painless exercise like walking yield the same benefits as a much more labor-intensive exercise like running? The answer is calorie expenditure.
In another study by the LBNL titled “Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction,” researchers found that runners and walkers who spent the same amount of energy arrived at similar health conditions. Theoretically, this means that assuming all other conditions are held the same, spending the same amount of calories regardless of how it’s done should result in the same health outcome. In practice, what this really means is while walking can give one the same benefits as running, one would have to walk longer to cover the same grounds as a runner in order to receive comparable results. However, unlike running, where both feet could be off the ground for a short time, walking requires at least one foot on the ground at all times, lowering the stress impact on the body and the likelihood of injuries.
At the end of the day, walking proves a healthy alternative to running. As more people realize its benefits, more programs are developed to encourage frequent walking. In 2011, Kaiser Permanente launched a campaign called “Everybody Walk!” to “encourage everyone in America who can safely walk, to walk.”
As we move towards a future of healthy living, remember that a slow but steady walk can still get us there.
Figure 1: A poster illustrating the benefits of walking designed for the “Every body Walk!” campaign.
- Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. from PubMed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the US National Library of Medicine <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23190592>
- Study: Walking Can Be as Good as Running from the Atlantic by the Atlantic Monthly Group <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/study-walking-can-be-as-good-as-running/274738/>
- Walking is Good for Your Heart from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center <http://www.bidmc.org/CentersandDepartments/Departments/CardiovascularInstitute…>
- Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction by P. T. Williams and P. D. Thompson from Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology by the American Heart Association <http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/04/04/ATVBAHA.112.300878.abstract>
- You don’t have to be a gym star to preserve your good health from A History of Total Health by KFHP, Inc.<http://kaiserpermanentehistory.org/tag/research-about-benefits-of-walking/>
Article by Thomas Trinh
Feature Image Source: Active North Tyneside