By Michael Bakheet, MD
Walk or run? That is a frequently asked question for sports medicine doctors. Most people know how often they should exercise – at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week – but they are eager to learn how to get the most from their workout with the least rick of injury.
In terms of health benefits, walking and running have a lot in common. Both improve cardiovascular function by strengthening the heart muscle and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, ultimately reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Both forms of exercise help control blood glucose levels, which can prevent, regulate and, in some cases, cure diabetes. Plus, improved self-image and confidence can result from either a walking or running routine.
However, if weight loss is the goal, a recent study found that the intensity of running leads to greater results that walking, Mile for mile, running burns two and a half times the number of calories as walking. Even if you were to use the same amount of energy while walking, research shows the increased intensity of running promotes more weight loss. The heavier you are, the greater benefit.
Another recent study of about 90,000 runners and walkers found that the runners had a significantly reduced risk of developing hip osteoarthritis and we less likely to need a hip replacement. A contributing factor may be that runners tend to have lower body weight, if you already suffer from painful arthritis, though, walking may be more comfortable for you since it is less likely to lead to joint problems and stress fractures than running.
As with any form of exercise, ask your doctor if a walking or running regimen is right for you. Before hitting the pavement, invest in a quality pair of shoes to ensure your feet are properly supported. Always include a warm-up and cool-down in your workout to prevent injury. Whether you choose to stroll or sprint your way to better health, just be consistent. Strap on a pedometer, slip in your earphones and strive for 10,000 steps per day at any pace.