Brisk walking actually reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out. A study where researchers compared data from two studies over a period of six years of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers aged 18 to 80, found that when the same amount of energy was expended, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners.
Running does reduce the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%, however calorie for calorie, walking also had a stronger impact on heart disease risk factors:
- Risk of first-time high blood pressure was reduced by 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.
- First-time high cholesterol risk was lowered by 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.
- The risk of first-time diabetes was reduced by about 12% by both walking and running.
Study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California stated that moderate-intensity walking and running both provide ideal health benefits because they involve the same muscle groups, they are just performed at different intensities. The runners and walkers had to expend the same energy to get the same benefits. That means you’d have to walk longer than you’d have to run for the same effect.
Walking and running are low-cost, easy-to-do anywhere, year-round, and even social activities. But since running is more rigorous than walking, so if you’re going to run, you should select a running program to maximize your conditioning in minimum time.
Dangers Of Pushing Too Hard
A report published by researchers from Denmark in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that people who push their bodies too hard may essentially undo the benefit of exercise. Those who ran at a fast pace more than four hours a week, for more than three times per week, had about the same risk of dying during the study’s 12-year follow up, as those who were sedentary and hardly exercised at all. The link held up even after the researchers accounted for potentially confounding factors such as age, sex, whether the participants had a history of heart disease or diabetes, or if they smoked and drank alcohol.
In fact, those with the lowest risk of dying during the study, were people who ran less than three times a week for one to 2.4 hours, at a slow to moderate pace. Even people who ran slightly more, for 2.5 hours to four hours a week at an average pace, less than 3X a week, showed slightly higher mortality risk at 66%, which was something that came as a surprise.
One looking to lose weight and stay healthy, should find a happy medium that’s just right to maintain heart health, burn off excess calories and keep blood sugar levels under control. According to these results, that sweet spot is closer to the ‘less’ side of the curve than the ‘more’ side. So the good news is that those who do not wish to run, can obtain the same health and fitness benefits by walking more.
Why Walking is Great For Almost Everyone
Walking is a great exercise for those who are just starting to workout or for those with health problems. Also, for the significantly overweight, walking can be less stressful on the body. An important factor to consider when looking at the difference between running and walking, is that because of the repetitive nature of running, the risk of injury is greater. Running is considered high impact exercise. This can cause injury to the hip, knee and ankle joints. Walking is a low impact activity and is less damaging to the body.