Here’s some good news for the fitness challenged: researchers have concluded that taking a regular brisk walk can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure as much as running. In a surprising report published recently in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, researchers found that the energy used for moderate intensity walking produced similar beneficial results as that used for vigorous intensity running. Both forms of exercise significantly lowered the participants’ risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly coronary heart disease.
Walking and running are similar activities utilizing the same muscle groups, only at different intensity levels. Energy expenditure was assessed by distance covered, rather than time. Researchers found that when the energy expenditure levels were equal, health benefits were comparable. In fact in some cases, risk of disease was reduced more in the walkers than the runners. Researchers found that compared with sedentary control groups:
- Walkers reduced first time diabetes risk by 12.3 percent, while for runners it was 12.1 percent;
- Walkers reduced coronary heart disease risk by 9.3 percent while for runners it was 4.5 percent;
- Walkers reduced first-time high cholesterol risk by 7 percent, while for runners it was 4.3 percent;
- Walkers reduced first time hypertension risk by 7.2 percent while for runners it was 4.2 percent.
The study analyzed some 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers, aged 18 to 80 years, with a majority in their 40s and 50s.
Walking is a more sustainable form of exercise for many people, and puts less stress on tendons and joints. These findings give new hope to those who have little inclination or desire to join a gym or try to keep up with the latest fitness craze. You don’t need complex equipment, in depth instruction or even fancy fitness togs; just a decent pair of walking shoes.
In addition to these new findings, walking is considered a weight bearing exercise, which helps women to maintain strong bones after menopause. So make some time in your daily routine for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk to receive a cornucopia of health benefits and lower your risk of disease.
Walking is so easy that even smokers can participate. For the sake of your walking companions, however, you should either refrain from partaking while walking, or else switch to one of those electronic cigarettes so that you won’t interfere with their oxygen uptake!