Walking may seem like more of a mode of transport than a form of exercise, but it really is one of the best things you can do for your body, your beauty and your long-term health. While you thought you were just getting from here to there, those steps were improving your cardiovascular strength, strengthening your muscles (which means more fat-burning power) and decreasing your chances of disease.
Performed by researchers in the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at data from 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers to compare the relative health benefits of each activity. From the outside it might seem like running—which is considered a vigorous intensity exercise—must be better for you than walking, a moderate form of exercise. But the results bore out differently, with walking taking a slight edge in the end. But there is a big if…keep reading.
To be sure, both walking and running had positive effects. When the researchers checked in with participants six years after the start of the study, they found that running significantly reduced the risk of high blood pressure (by 4.2 percent), high cholesterol (4.3 percent), diabetes (12.1 percent) and cardiovascular heart disease (4.5 percent), for every METh/d, which is a standard measure of metabolic energy expenditure. Great news, right? Well it gets even better.
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Participants who walked regularly saw even better results. Walking decreased risk by 7.2 percent for high blood pressure, 7 percent for high cholesterol, 12.3 percent for diabetes and 9.3 percent for cardiovascular heart disease. For both running and walking, the more they did it, the greater the benefit.Here’s the if: 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.
If you’re already jogging and sprinting to your heart’s content, keep at it, as long as your joints are aligned and you protect them with strong muscles to act as shock absorbers—and you wear great shoes! Yes, running is a great way to keep healthy, boost your mood and keep blood flowing for glowing skin. Not into it? No problem. Just keep working toward those 10,000 steps a day—or more, if you can! Especially if you’re just starting out or have never run before, walking is a great, low impact way to get into a fitness regimen without risking injury. Walking is easier on your hip and knee joints—just to be sure, do lunges or squats twice a week.
COLUMN: 7 Tips for Getting Your 10,000 Steps a Day
Every step you take is one step toward a fitter, more beautiful, healthier future.