Walking Is As Good As Running For Heart Health
April 5, 2013

Walking Just As Heart Healthy As Running

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A new study out this week from the American Heart Association has found that a nice, brisk walk can be just as heart healthy as running. The results of this study could be good news for those who dislike running or have a disability which keeps them from running. Though walking may have some of the same benefits as running, walkers will have to spend more time on the road than runners to see similar results.

This study is the product of a collaboration between the National Runners´ Health Study and the National Walkers´ Health Study. Together, they gathered over 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers and monitored their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. After comparing the results of both groups, the researchers discovered that when the same amount of energy was expended during both activities, walkers had a similar decrease in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Furthermore, the more frequently walkers hit the streets, the more their health benefits increased.

Paul T Williams, Ph.D., the study´s principal author, said the two activities have similar effects on the heart because they are similar in motion.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said Dr. Williams, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in a statement.

Dr. Williams and his team were somewhat surprised by these results, as previous studies had found that running was much better for the heart than walking. However, this study was the first to focus on the distance walked and not the amount of time spent walking. After they completed their walks, the 15,045 walkers in the study completed questionnaires for the researchers.

“The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable,” said Dr. Williams.

In some cases, walking even reduced the risk of heart disease more significantly than running. For instance, the study found that walking reduced the risk of first-time hypertension by 7.2 percent compared to running´s 4.2 percent. Walkers also reduced their risk for high-cholesterol by seven percent, while runners reduced their chances by 4.3 percent. Walkers saw the greatest risk reduction when it came to coronary heart disease; their risk decreased by 9.3 percent while runners saw a 4.5 percent decrease.

Though walking has comparable health benefits to running, Dr. Williams points out that runners may experience a greater benefit because they can do more exercise in an hour than walkers.

Either way, these results have removed yet another reason not to go for more walks during the week.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise,” said Dr. Williams in closing, “but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”

This research has now been published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.