It seems that doctors are regularly changing the standards for how much exercise we need to be physically healthy. What we do know is that daily physical activity works best when the habits are formed in young people. Age-related health problems can be fought off with regular aerobic exercise, keeping the heart, muscles, joints, and other body parts in top physical condition.
Often, however, there is a battle between which is better: walking or running.
As the most common form of physical activity—often due to simple necessity—walking is widely accepted and has very low risk of injury. The practicality of walking is that it can be done almost anywhere, in any climate. Even just a few minutes of walking a day can make a difference in the health and wellbeing of a person.
Walking and Mental Health
In addition to exercising the muscles and heart, walking daily can aid in decreasing stress, nerve deterioration, osteoporosis, and other health problems. Lowering blood pressure, relaxing muscles, and clearing the mind are all benefits that walking provides. Just a few minutes of low-impact walking can provide much needed relief from a stressful work situation, difficult family dynamics, or fussy children. As walking releases healthy endorphins, the mental state of a person who walks is uplifted and happiness is promoted.
In addition to improving the mood, moderate aerobic exercise (from walking) can improve the function of the brain. In fact, regeneration of the memory and cognitive abilities may occur simply by the regular habit of walking just a few minutes a day. New capillaries may be formed in the brain and connections between neurons can increase simply by adding aerobic activity into the routine. Walking less than a mile a day may improve brain function and reduce brain atrophy, particularly in elderly people.
Walking and Physical Health
Maintaining regular exercise habits is critical for cardiovascular health. Walking is an excellent way to fight off health disease as it helps to maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, manage stress, and control blood pressure. In addition to staving off heart disease, walking can fight off the risk of other diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
Walking and Bone Health
Your bone mass density is affected by a simple, regular habit of walking. Aging women especially need to avoid osteoporosis by taking advantage of the positive benefits of load-bearing walking. Strong bones are encouraged when they are required to bear the weight of the body. This not only encourages the strengthening of the bones, but also develops muscle mass to support the bones. This improves balance, prevents falls, and encourages dexterity for all-around health.
What About Running?
We know that any physical exercise is helpful in maintaining an all-around healthy existence. And runners are often some of the healthiest people around. Many of the same benefits produced by walking are found through running as well. However, it may be that taking a brisk walk might be healthier than running.
A new study comparing walkers with runners have found that the amount of energy expended in walkers produces more health benefits that in that of runners. In fact, it was discovered, that walking has a greater benefit to fight heart disease than running, as walking reduces blood pressure more effectively than running does. (7.2% compared to 4.2%) Cholesterol was also reduced more effectively in walkers than in runners. (7% compared to 4.3%) Walking and running produced an equal benefit of reducing diabetes by 12%.
The difference comes in the fact that it is necessary to walk for longer periods of time in order to expend the same amount of energy as going on a run. So if comparing distances or time exercised, then running may produce more benefits simply because more energy is expended. But if walkers expend as much energy as runners (walking longer distances for more time) then, they are going to find a greater impact on their health than a runner will.
Weight control is one place where running wins, hands down. On the whole, runners are almost always thinner than walkers. This may be partly due to the fact that walkers tend to be hungry after exercising, but runners are typically not as hungry after a workout. So if you’re looking to shed pounds, curb your appetite, and build up healthy muscle mass, running may be your chose exercise.
The reality, however, is that we need our exercise. So if you love to run, then by all means, run! But don’t run rather than walk simply because you think it’s better for you because the energy exerted by walking is extremely good for you as well.