Friday, April 5, 2013

Walking's Physical Benefits: Is That All There Is?

It was good to see that two of the regulars in my Blog List --- ScienceDaily and WebMD -- reported a new study that touts the health benefits of brisk walking.

"Brisk" no doubt is the key word. The study reported in an American Heart Association journal that walking can reduce significant health risks -- such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and the onset of diabetes -- just as much as running if a runner and walker exert about the same amount of energy.

Clearly that means the walker must walk a longer distance than the runner to achieve that equality of result. What matters is how far you walk or run, not how long, is what the chief researcher, Paul Williams of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, was quoted as saying.

We're talking about the kind of walking that is "not a mosey kind of thing," but purposeful "walking for exercise," Williams said.

The figures cited in the study actually seem to give the edge in results to walking. As the WebMD article reported the data:

"Running reduced the risk of high blood pressure 4.2 percent and walking reduced the risk 7.2 percent.

"Running reduced the risk for high cholesterol 4.3 percent and walking reduced the risk 7 percent.

"Running lowered the risk for diabetes 12.1 percent and walking reduced the risk 12.3 percent.

"Running reduced the risk of heart disease 4.5 percent and walking reduced the risk 9.3 percent."

Still, even though I am an ex-runner who now prefers walking, I think it's fair to say that you would have to walk up to twice the distance of a runner to achieve an equal expenditure of energy. That point is not in the study -- or at least not in the articles about it. Maybe if you're race-walking, my observation is all wet. But how many walkers race-walk?

Anyway, the main point is that walking may be the most realistic exercise for many folks, and regular walking can help improve their health in many ways.

As for me, there is no doubt that I am doing a lot of "moseying around" right now with my walking. I hope after the total knee replacement next week that I gradually will be able to step it up.

In truth, though, I think of walking's most important benefit being mental rather than physical. There is nothing like a good walk to clear the mind for pondering good thoughts. If walking reduces risks to your physical health, the good news is that it will enable you to walk even longer and farther and for more years to reap the mental benefits.

© Robert G. Holland  2013

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