Walking Away

For over thirty years, I’ve used running to survive my teenage years, graduate school, and my own teens, and yet I’ve often considered replacing it with another option, such as walking, but failed to do so.

Part of the problem involves accounts from other people. For example, one of my brothers, who is a recent nursing school graduate, told me that he doesn’t understand why anyone under fifty would walk as exercise and that walking wouldn’t achieve a high enough heart rate. My physician, when I reported my efforts and my brother’s response, said that she agreed with my brother and that I need something more substantial.

Their arguments might be accurate, but such claims appear less credible in light of recent research, which suggests that the answer to the question of whether running or walking is better might not be as obvious.

Studies indicate that running is better for weight loss, and perhaps appetite control, which are obvious benefits. At the same time, other studies suggest that running might not be as beneficial as it is widely considered to be.

In particular, running might result in no statistically lower mortality rates than being sedentary in part perhaps because running increases inflammation, adrenaline, free radicals, and other potentially detrimental conditions. At the same time, regular running routines can produce more stress than the heart muscle can accommodate and can result in microtears, which are more detrimental if sustained over time. In addition, running can increase certain proteins that allow colds and other viruses to flourish.

Other studies suggest the benefits of walking. Vigorous walking, when it is equivalent to expending the same amount of energy as running in a day, can provide similar, and perhaps even greater, reductions in heart disease, as well as the same reduction in rate of cataracts. In fact, walking, at least according to one researcher, provides 95% or more of the benefits of running.

Running, in other words, might not be as beneficial as many believe, and walking, as an alternative, has advantages. Though it might not be as beneficial for weight loss, weight is better managed, according to many, by confronting caloric consumption, which is a different issue altogether.

Maybe this question isn’t as complicated as it might seem.

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