Running is one of the best exercises you can do for heart health. Studies show that regular running workouts can help support blood pressure, cholesterol, and even blood sugar management. Running isn't for everyone, however, especially if you have weak bones and joints because the impact can cause even more discomfort. The good news is that researchers have found that brisk walking can be equally effective.
Go for Distance
Based on data collected from about 33,000 runners and 16,000 walkers between the ages of 18 and 80, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Hartford Hospital discovered that walkers and runners both had lower risks of developing blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and heart health challenges. In fact, walkers fared slightly better in reducing these risk factors than runners.
- High blood pressure risk decreased 4.2% percent in runners, 7.2% in walkers
- High cholesterol risk decreased 4.3% in runners, 7% in walkers
- High blood sugar risk decreased 12.1% in runners, 12.3% in walkers
- Heart disease risk decreased 4.5% in runners, 9.3% in walkers
More detailed results can be found in the full study, published in the April edition of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. According to Paul Williams, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, the distance covered while walking or running mattered more than the length of the workout. In this instance, running is more advantageous because more distance can be covered, but Williams and his research partner, Dr. Paul Thompson, agree that brisk walking—as opposed to leisurely strolling—can be just as effective as long as you cover the distance you normally would if running.
Regular Exercise Reduces Health Risks
The other great thing about walking is that practically anyone can do it. You don't need a gym membership or expensive equipment; all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing, and a route you can safely navigate that covers a respectable workout distance. Whether you prefer walking or running, the American Heart Association recommends engaging in regular physical activity to help reduce heart health risks and promote a healthier general lifestyle. In addition to exercise, healthy eating also plays a part in your overall wellness. After all, it makes little sense to exercise frequently if you continue to consume a high-fat diet every day, too.
- Reinberg S. Brisk Walking May Equal Running for Heart Health. WebMD. April 4, 2013. https://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20130404/brisk-walking-equals-running-for-heart-health-study/.