Surprise: Walking can be as healthy as running

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Many assume that vigorous exercise is a more effective means of reducing risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) than is more moderate activity. New research however, suggests that this assumption isn t necessarily true.

Researchers Drs Williams and Thompson from California s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined the energy expenditure and health status of over 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers. They used a measure called Metabolic Equivalents (MET), which depicts energy expenditure while exercising compared to energy used while sitting quietly. Thus, a MET of 3.0 indicates an expenditure triple that of sitting quietly.

The METs used by runners and walkers at the start of the study were compared to changes in risk factors over the next 6.2 years. Runners decreased their risks for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and CHD significantly. Similarly, walkers also significantly decreased the incidence of these risk factors, though to a lesser extent. However, when the risk reductions were compared based on similar energy expenditures (for example 1.8 MET-hours per day ), the degrees of risk factor reductions were similar.

Thus, the study indicated that walking and running could have essentially the same health benefits when the same amount of energy was expended. Dr. Williams noted in a statement If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable. It was just necessary for walkers to exercise for longer periods than did runners in order to obtain similar CHD risk reductions.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava expressed surprise at the results of this study Who would have thought that walking could be as good for you as running? These data, if confirmed by other work, should motivate walkers to take even longer strolls than usual!