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Walking vs Running and reading beyond the headline

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Monday, April 08, 2013

First, I must make it clear that I enjoy BOTH walking and running. I believe both are beneficial to your health and would never call either one BETTER.

Which I choose to do depends on the circumstances. Lately, however, I’ve come across a variety of articles which are intended to show how one is “better” than the other at least according to the headline or how the author interprets a study.

Last week sparker MrsDoyle posted a link to this article

I thank her for doing that especially since I’m unlikely to access news from the UK and I like knowing how the world thinks beyond my own borders.

Yes, I agree that walking is as good for you as running. I understand that you have to stay at it longer to burn the same amount of calories, but that’s OK with me.

But the premise of the article is that it’s BETTER than running.
Then I looked at their numbers.
Walking 4 miles in 38 minutes is being compared to running 3 miles in 15 minutes.

4 miles in 38 minutes is a 9:30 pace. That’s 29:45 for a 5K.
Have you ever seen anyone WALK that fast?

3 miles in 15 minutes? Look at the results of any 5K.
Maybe the overall winner was able to do that, but few others can.
This “running” they say is stressful for the heart. Whew, it’s stressful for me to even think about that pace. That’s setting my treadmill to 12.0 Does it even go that high?

Perhaps I should conclude that a 9-10 min/mile pace is what’s beneficial? Yea! That’s me (although I’m running at that speed, not walking).

Today the same study was reported in the US press MINUS actual numbers.
It’s left to each person’s imagination to define “brisk walk” or what speed qualifies as a “run.”


However, they seem to be using the same data as the UK article because of this statement.
“The advantage of running is you can cover twice as much ground in the same amount of time as you would walking.”

Uh oh! That’s not me either. On average I run 3 miles in 30 min and walk it in 45 min. To fit the article’s premise, I have to slow down my walk to a 20 min/mile pace or run 3 consecutive 7.5 min miles. I can safely predict that a 23 min 5K is NOT in my future. It wasn’t in my past either.

Another article takes the same study and states the data and conclusion differently.

Runners were 38%, 36%, 71% less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. The runners were younger and fitter and exercised more but they say that they compensated for the difference statistically in the results.

Yikes, this is like the old game of telephone where it’s hard to determine exactly what the original message said.

Right now I’m concluding that I’d be better off if I quit reading and just went for a run OR a walk. However, there is one more aspect to this issue that is prevalent in the comments – the “bad knees/joints” bogeyman.

I’m always thinking about the average person. Injuries occur if you push yourself too fast or too far or too hard beyond your ability/fitness level and that can occur at a walk or a run (or in any other kind of athletic activity as well). I got a knee injury last year when I tripped over a step eyeing the dessert on the buffet table in the distance.

Warmup is important and so is stretching and cool down – things that are often ignored. Wearing the proper shoes makes a difference as does losing weight. A guideline is that each pound lost translates to 4 pounds less pressure on your knees. Your heart and lungs will be happier too.

According to a study by Stanford University, statistically runners have fewer knee problems than non runners. I used to have a printout of that available to show my mother every time she warned me of the dangers of running. Note: Mom had major knee problems and never ran a step in her life.

Researchers (Stanford University) found that runners delayed major disabilities 16 years longer than non-runners and had lower instances of cancer, infections and other diseases. Also there was no increase in joint problems, knee replacements or osteoarthritis in the subjects studied. Yes, I understand that runners probably had other healthy habits that the control group did not have. However, Stanford does have a reputation for controlling as many variables as possible.

I believe that the absolute best exercise is the one you enjoy doing and will stick with and I will never try to rank anyone’s choices or levels of effort. If you’re moving your body and aiming to improve, it all has value.

Now that my morning mini-novel is complete I’m off for a run. Note, I always take a 1 min walk break every mile or so – my personal workout choice. I sip some water, manually check my HR for 10 seconds and wipe my nose (allergies). I’m pretty sure none of those 3 habits will ever show up in a headline.
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