The Benefits of Running vs. Walking

Sally Wadyka wrote . . . . . . .

Running and walking are both excellent forms of exercise. Those who regularly do either typically have healthier hearts, stronger bones, and lower body weights than their sedentary counterparts.

The current Physical Activity Guidelines, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, call for a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity.

So does it matter whether you get those minutes walking or running? Arguments can made for both—and which is right for you depends on your goals and your current fitness level.

If You Want to Maximize Calorie Burning

“The key difference between running and walking is how many calories you are burning—not per mile, but per minute of exercise,” says Paul D. Thompson, M.D., chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital and and a professor of medicine and preventive cardiology at the University of Connecticut.

For a 160-pound person, walking at a brisk, 3.5-mph pace for 30 minutes will burn about 156 calories. But running at a 6-mph pace for that same 30 minutes will burn more than double the calories (about 356).

“Running is a less efficient movement, and it’s more demanding on the body, so it burns more calories per minute,” says Thompson. “But if you’ve got the time to walk long enough to burn the equivalent calories, then walking is fine.”

That said, if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, chances are neither running nor walking alone is going to do the trick. “Exercise on its own is not the best way to lose weight,” says Thompson. “Research has shown that it needs to be done along with calorie restriction.”

If You Want to Improve Heart Health

Running makes the heart work harder than walking, so it stands to reason that it would also make it healthier. But the answer again may come down to how much time you have.

In a 2013 study that analyzed data from the nearly 50,000 people involved in the National Runners’ Health Study II and National Walkers’ Health Study, researchers found that runners’ risk of cardiovascular disease was 4.5 percent lower than those who were inactive.

But walkers who expended the same amount of energy as runners daily—burned the same amount of calories—had a risk level that was 9 percent lower than those who were inactive.

If You Want to Reduce Belly Fat

You can help decrease how much fat you store in your middle if you pick up the pace by interspersing some stretches of all-out sprinting with your jog or walk.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)—a workout in which you alternate short bursts of activity at close to your peak heart rate with easier bouts—can help eat away at belly fat. A 2018 analysis of 39 studies, published in the journal Sports Medicine, concluded that HIIT reduced what’s called visceral fat by 1.8 percent.

This is important because visceral fat is located deep in the abdominal cavity, surrounding organs such as the liver and pancreas. That means the fat can trigger a variety of metabolic changes, including increased insulin resistance and higher triglyceride levels.

“Reducing visceral fat, even without losing weight, can improve overall health,” says Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., a professor of biobehavioral studies at Columbia University Teachers College. (Garber was not involved in the 2018 study.)

HIIT is also a great way to ease yourself into a running regimen, says Garber.

“Running is often a big step up in intensity from walking, so it’s best to add it into your routine gradually,” she says. “By alternating higher intensity intervals of running with lower-intensity walking intervals you’ll reap the benefits without putting excessive stress on your body.”

If You’re Worried About Your Joints

Runners pound the pavement, but running doesn’t necessarily lead to more arthritis than walking, according to recent research.

In a study published in 2017 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, almost 59 percent of non-runners had osteoarthritis in their knees compared with 53 percent of the runners; for the group that reported running the most, the prevalence dropped to about 51 percent.

Another study, published in 2013, that analyzed data from the National Runners’ Health Study found that those who ran more than 1.2 miles per day had a 15 percent lower risk of osteoarthritis and a 35 percent lower risk of hip replacement than those who were less active.

The researchers theorize that one of the reasons for fewer joint issues among the runners is that, as a whole, the runners had lower body mass indexes (BMI) than the walkers. Lower weight means less stress on the joints—even during a high-impact activity like running.

“Running gets the reputation for causing injuries because many people who are just starting to run try to do too much too quickly,” Garber says. “And they often get injured as a result.”

If you want to progress from walking to running, do it slowly, gradually increasing your speed, distance, and the frequency of your runs.

So Should You Walk or Run?

Running may be more high-intensity and calorie-burning than walking, but walking is a great way to ease into exercise—no matter what your current health status—and make sure you’re staying physically active every day.

The bottom line is that getting exercise of any kind is beneficial—provided you stick with it.

“The best exercise is the one you are going to do,” says Thompson. “There are additional benefits to be gained from running, but what’s most important from a public health point of view is that everyone gets out and does some kind of exercise.”

Source: Consumer Reports

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Older Adults Who Have Slower Walking Speeds May Have Increased Risk for Dementia

As of 2015, nearly 47 million people around the world had dementia, a memory problem significant enough to affect your ability to carry out your usual tasks. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but other forms exist, too.

Because there’s currently no cure for dementia, it’s important to know about the risk factors that may lead to developing it. For example, researchers have learned that older adults with slower walking speeds seem to have a greater risk of dementia than those with faster walking speeds. Recently, researchers from the United Kingdom teamed up to learn more about changes in walking speed, changes in the ability to think and make decisions, and dementia. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers examined information collected from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The study included adults aged 60 and older who lived in England. In their study, the researchers used information collected from 2002 to 2015. They assessed participants’ walking speed on two occasions in 2002-2003 and in 2004-2005, and whether or not the participants developed dementia after the tests from 2006-2015. Then, they compared the people who had developed dementia with those who had not.

Researchers discovered that of the nearly 4,000 older adults they studied, those with a slower walking speed had a greater risk of developing dementia. And people who experienced a faster decline in walking speed over a two-year period were also at higher risk for dementia. People who had a poorer ability to think and make decisions when they entered the study—and those whose cognitive (thinking) abilities declined more quickly during the study—were also more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers concluded that older adults with slower walking speeds, and those who experienced a greater decline in their walking speed over time, were at increased risk for dementia. But, the researchers noted, changes in walking speed and changes in an older adult’s ability to think and make decisions do not necessarily work together to affect the risk of developing dementia.

Source: The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging


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Arm Exercise Improves Walking Ability after Stroke

A new study shows that arm exercises may improve walking ability months and even years after having a stroke. The study, the first to test the influence of arm training on post-stroke leg function, is published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurophysiology. It was chosen as an APSselect article for February.

Researchers from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, worked with a group of older adults who had had a stroke between 7 months and 17 years prior to the study. The volunteers participated in three 30-minute, moderate-intensity arm cycling training sessions each week for five weeks. The research team measured the volunteers’ physical abilities before and after arm training using several standardized scales and tests of physical function, including:

  • Six Minute Walk, which measures how far a person can walk in six minutes;
  • Timed 10 Meter Walk, which measures how quickly a person can walk 10 meters; and the
  • Timed Up and Go, which measures the time it takes to stand up from a seated position, walk 10 feet, turn around, walk back and sit down again.

The researchers also tested electrical activity in the muscles and stretch reflexes in the lower legs and wrists during both arm cycling and walking tests.

The participants improved their performance significantly on all of the walking tests—as much as 28 percent in the Timed Up and Go test. Several volunteers had less tightness in their muscles after completing the arm cycling trial, but there was no significant change in grip strength. Nerve activity increased during arm cycling as well. “Arm cycling training activated interlimb networks that contribute to the coordination of rhythmic walking,” the researchers wrote. In other words, nerves in the arms activated and adapted to improve function of the spinal cord in other areas of the body, such as the legs, affected by stroke.

These results could have a large impact on stroke rehabilitation, even years after injury. “Although improvements in walking may not be as robust as those from other training modalities, they do highlight the integral role that training the arms can have on rehabilitation of human locomotion,” the research team wrote.

Source: American Physiological Society


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A Daily Walk Is Good for Seniors’ Brain Health

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . .

With New Year’s Day fast approaching, one small, new study suggests that seniors interested in preserving their brain health might want to add walking to the top of their resolution list.

Why? A team of investigators from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that adults over the age of 60 who are already struggling with memory issues are better able to focus and process information if they walk more than 4,000 steps a day (roughly 2 miles).

“We looked at how physical activity affects thickness of brain structures and also cognitive [thinking] performance of adults over the age of 60,” explained study author Prabha Siddarth.

Siddarth noted that brain thickness is considered to be “an early and sensitive marker of brain health.”

The study revealed that those who walked more than 4,000 steps each day had thicker areas of the brain known to be critical to thought processing.

What’s more, such avid walkers demonstrated “better cognitive functioning” than those who walked 4,000 steps or less, she said.

Siddarth is a biostatistician in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Longevity Center at UCLA.

To explore the potential mental health benefits of walking, the team focused on 26 men and women between the ages of 61 and 88. Nearly 70 percent were women.

While none suffered from dementia, all complained about memory issues.

For one week, all were outfitted with an accelerometer, to track activity patterns.

Participants were then divided into two groups: those who walked more than 4,000 steps per day and those who walked less. (The less active group was older, at an average age of 77, compared with the more active group, at an average age of 68.)

In addition, MRI brain scans were conducted and each participant underwent a battery of mental health tests to assess memory skills, learning skills, verbal skills, attention and information-processing abilities, decision-making function and the ability to execute a task.

The investigators found that those who walked in excess of 4,000 steps per day had thicker brain measurements in the area of the hippocampus and surrounding regions. Collectively, greater brain thickness in such regions has previously been linked to better thinking and memory.

In terms of information-processing speed, the ability to pay attention, and the ability to make plans and meet goals, those in the 4,000-plus group also demonstrated a “substantial” leg up over the less mobile group, said Siddarth, though the degree of the advantage varied.

But she said it remains unclear whether walking even more — above 4,000 steps — might further improve mental health. “This is something we are working on to see if more exercise leads to more improvement, and also to see if this is paralleled in brain thickness measures,” Siddarth said.

The study authors noted that the finding is an association, rather than proof that daily walking actually protects the brain.

This latter point was seconded by Adam Woods, assistant director of the University of Florida’s Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory (CAM), in Gainesville.

“I think caution is warranted when interpreting [these] results as causal,” Woods said. He added that the findings stem from just a small group of people whose activity patterns were only correlated with brain function, rather than shown to affect it.

Woods also pointed out that “neither of these findings is novel. Prior work has shown that persons with higher physical activity have correlated differences in brain volume and cognitive performance,” he said.

Woods, who also serves as director of the CAM Neurophysiology and Neuromodulation Research Core at the McKnight Brain Institute, said that “these results suffer from the classic ‘chicken or the egg’ conundrum. Did higher walking lead to increased hippocampal volume and better cognition in these people, or did better cognition and larger hippocampal volume drive their increased physical activity?”

So for now, he concluded, the finding in “no way speaks to whether physical activity could improve cognition and brain volume.”

The findings were published online recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Source: HealthDay


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Walking vs. Running — Which Is Better?

Regina Boyle Wheeler wrote . . . . . .

Running and walking are both popular ways to get a great cardio workout. But is a brisk walk really as good an exercise as a sweaty, heart-pounding run?

Research reported by the American Heart Association finds that walking is just as good as running when it comes to lowering your risk for heart disease.

Researchers analyzed the health of some 48,000 runners and walkers mainly in 40s and 50s. They found that, mile for mile, brisk walking lowers the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure as much as running does.

The difference? You’ll have to spend more time walking than you do running to get the same health benefits simply because it takes longer to walk than to run the same distance. For instance, a 15-minute jog burns about the same number of calories as a half-hour brisk walk.

Keep in mind that the chance of being injured is greater in runners because running puts more stress on the body — on the joints in particular.

But if you’re still thinking of stepping up the pace to running, first check with your doctor, especially if you have arthritis or other health conditions, like heart disease.

And keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to either walking or running. You can stay motivated by mixing it up. What’s more, adding short sprints to your walking routine will give you a bigger calorie-burning boost for your efforts.

Source: HealthDay


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