Run? Why Bother? Walking Deemed Better in Heart Health Study

It’s well established that there are certain key players in the development of heart disease, most of which are wellness concerns on their own. Reducing your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes risk can protect your heart health as well, and many people choose running as an activity to achieve this. However, according to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, brisk walking can be just as good for your wellbeing.

According to Paul Williams, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, it’s not a matter of how long you walk or run for, but how far. ‘Both of these activities reduce risk factors, and if you expend the same amount of energy you get the same benefit,’ he said, adding that your level of health improvement correlates with how much you walk or run in a week. He noted, ‘there is now some choice in the exercise you want to do,’ especially if you’re just starting to exercise, and you’d prefer something a little more gentle than running.

For the study, Williams and Dr Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, examined the data of over 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers who participated in the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study. The age range of participants was between 18 and 80, but the authors noted that the majority of those involved were in their 40s and 50s. Running and walking reduced high blood pressure by 4.2% and 7.2% respectively, high cholesterol by 4.3% and 7%, diabetes risk by 12.% and 12.3% and overall heart disease risk by 4.5% and 9.3%.

However, Williams pointed out that the kind of walking the study is talking about, as published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, refers to brisk walking. ‘Walking for exercise. It’s not a mosey kind of thing, but actually walking for exercise,’ he explained, pointing out that the advantage of running is you can cover twice as much ground in the same amount of time as you would walking. Dr Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, added, ‘These findings suggest similar benefit for similar energy expenditures with exercise regardless of intensity. However, for those who are capable of engaging in more vigorous exercise, this may be the more time-efficient strategy.’

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