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Walking as Effective as Running for Disease Prevention

May 06, 2013 by NCSF 0 comments

According to the American Heart Association if you cannot run or jog you can just as easily lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes by taking a brisk walk. Recent findings reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology suggest that when walking and running are matched for energy expenditure, the benefits for disease prevention become similar.

The data is based on 33,060 runners from the National Runners' Health Study and 15,045 walkers who participated in the National Walkers' Health Study. Study participants ranged in age from 18 to 80 years old. While more women participated in the walking trial, the sample of men and women were fairly equal among the runners. According to the researchers, when the same energy was expended during moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running, the reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and possibly coronary heart disease was fairly equivocal.

Paul T. Williams, Ph.D., principal author and staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, California suggests, "Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities." It is important to realize that the acts are not being compared, but rather the total quantity of work. Whereas previous investigations used time as a metric of health influence, researchers in this study assessed walking and running expenditure by distance. "The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable," Williams said.

The results suggest that walking may be a viable option for anyone looking to improve their overall health. The runners demonstrated more distance covered per unit of time, but walking is something almost everyone can perform, it requires very little in resources and does not commonly incite many of the overuse injuries associated with running.

Walking is something almost everyone can engage in for health benefits. If every American would invest one-third the time they spend watching television actually walking, many of the health issues we see today would have the potential to be corrected. This is supported by the Surgeon General’s Every Body Walk! Campaign. Walking is currently the most commonly reported form of physical activity among U.S. adults and encouraging Americans to add walking to their daily routine has enormous long term health benefits. However, running does provide additional benefits such as greater relative improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max) and greater caloric expenditure per minute of participation. Therefore as long as each are done will regularity, everyone wins.

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