Jogging is generally accepted as being super good for your health, and it’s earned that reputation. But while some people swear by their daily run, it definitely isn’t for everyone. And let’s face it; if you don’t actually like running, it’s harder to make it a regular addition to your weekly routine. Enter, walking and the benefits of walking daily. Turns out that, in certain contexts walking can actually be better than running, and if that means you’ll make a note to get your steps in more often, all the better.
Science has shown that regular walking every day can be just as impactful on both your mental and physical health as regularly running. What’s more, as the American Heart Association reported in the Journal Of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in 2017, briskly walking was just as effective as jogging when it comes to lowering your risk of certain factors that causes heart disease and stroke, and concluded,
Equivalent energy expenditures by moderate walking and vigorous running exercise produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly CHD.
So, despite all the hype from avid runners, some experts say that walking can actually be better for you than going for a run. From being better for your joints to being an easier addition to your schedule, there are very good reasons to opt for a walk, rather than a run, and the science behind why it’s effective. According to the study, walking was just as effective as running in relieving stress, high cholesterol and heart disease and diabetes. And it was also was determined that the brisker the walk, the better the health benefits, as several studies have shown, however, other studies laud the gentle advantages of a slower pace.
Brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out, a study has found. Researchers compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. For the same amount of energy used, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners. The effects on participants, who were aged 18 to 80, were observed over a period of six years. Running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%, very likely due to cardiovascular damage (See heart damage below)
Beyond the parallel perks, are there times when is walking better than running? Yes, Absolutely!
Running Places Undue Stress On the Immune System
Walking, unlike running, especially long-distance running, does not seem to tax your immune system. Long-distance runners are more susceptible to developing infections, Dr. Uwe Schutz, from University Hospital of Ulm, Germany, told Reuters Health. Training for or running a marathon not only burns fat but also muscle tissue as well. This places undue burdens on the body’s immune system. Also, an infectious disease specialists told Runner’s World, in 2011 that,
The more intense the run, the higher the cortisol level. We know it can be high enough to impair the immune system for up to three days following a race or a strenuous workout.
Heart Damage Can Occur From Running
In the journal Circulation, researchers performed echocardiographic measurements of cardiac function in 60 recreational runners before and 20 minutes after the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon. What they found was that before the race, none of the runners had elevated serum markers for cardiac stress. After the race, 36 runners, or 60 percent, had elevated markers of a certain triplet of proteins called troponin. Troponin is a major component of cardiac muscle but elevated levels of subtypes of these proteins can lead to cardiovascular damage.
If that’s not enough to discourage a long-distance run, consider that the researchers also discovered that 24 runners, which was 40%, developed signs of myocardial necrosis, irreversible damage to heart muscle cells. The researchers also discovered at least 10 studies from 2004 to 2006 alone that documented increases in myocardial damage; there is no evidence that brisk walking can destroy heart muscle or cells.
Less Stress On the Joints and Muscles
According to Natalie Lovitz, PT, DPT, and Clinical Director of Professional Physical Therapy in NY, walking is much easier on your joints than running, so if you are dealing with pain or stiffness, going for a low-impact stroll is almost certainly better for your health.
Running can be hard on joints, as it applies a large amount of pressure on the knees, hips, and ankles.
Research has shown walkers impact the ground at 1.5 times their body weight, whereas, runners, impact the ground 3 times their body weight. Quite a difference in the stress at impact!
If you need to give your joints a little tender loving care, walking is the perfect alternative,
said Lovitz. Lovitz also said while walking is certainly less stressful on the body’s musculoskeletal system than running, it still causes your brain to release mood-boosting endorphins, one of the biggest benefits of exercise. Although still controversial, running may also damage cartilage, one specific study using an MRI, showed biochemical changes particularly in the knee cartilage, suggesting evidence of a higher risk of degeneration, which could lead to osteoarithritis, or even micro-fractures in the bones. Walking works your bones and muscles against gravity, inhibiting bone loss and prolonged maladies.
Walking and the Benefits Of Experiencing Nature
Walking gives you the freedom to explore and spend time in nature, without having to look down at the ground so you don’t trip over a branch or stumble over a rock, risking a serious fall and injury.
If you’ve been wanting to check out a national park or go for a hike, walking is the best route. Instead of breezing through an area, walking allows you to stop and check out all of nature’s breathtaking views,
According to a 2015 article “How Walking In Nature Changes the Brain”, from The New York Times, studies have shown walking in nature can have a positive impact on your mental health, making you feel happier, more attentive, and less stressed. If you’re tired of your regular running route, consider hitting the hiking trails for a mindful walk so you can glean both the benefits of exercise and relaxing nature. Walking stimulates the brain and enhances your attention and working memory when you do a nature walk.
Risk A Heat Stroke
According to this Mayo Clinic article, in the summer, runners need to be careful not to overdo it. Running in hot weather can lead to multi-organ dysfunction. Although walking in hot weather can also lead to heat stroke, there is probably less overall stress and a chance of developing organ failure when walking versus running. Hot weather puts added stress on the body. Adding exercise to the mix makes it even harder for the body to function properly. To cool itself, the body sends extra blood circulating through the skin. This takes blood away from the muscles, which in turn increases heart rate. This trifecta of events leaves the body vulnerable to heat illness. When experiencing heat stroke, body temperatures can rise in excess of 104 degrees. The body will be hot to the touch, but perspiration will be non-existent, causing weakness and even nausea. . If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to organ failure, brain damage, and even death.
Take It A Notch Up To Hiking
We know this article is about the benefits of walking, particularly if you’re doing it out in nature somewhere, then you might as well be hiking. Not only does hiking through the trails have the same health benefits walking daily, such as decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing the danger of heart disease, diabetes and stroke for those at high-risk, it also allows you to be in close contact with nature, increases your fitness, and tones your whole body. For example, hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance. Let’s take a look at these added benefits individually:
Connecting To Nature
Being out in nature, away from the chaos of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being, which can be a natural mental health prescription. Research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It may even inspire those suffering from it to lead a more active lifestyle.
Overall Fitness Improves
Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline, decline, and back to incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying. Hiking trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete, so it’s easier on your ankles and knees compared to running. If you head for the hills, weight loss results are even better. Not only are you burning serious calories, but altitude itself has also proven to be a weight-loss ally.
Whole Body Benefits
Regular walking can get you in better shape, but taking on sharp inclines, using trekking poles to propel you forward, and clambering over rocks gives your body an all-over workout. Physiologically, you’re going to work your whole body, especially the lower body, namely the quads, glutes and hamstrings. If you’re carrying a pack, which you should be, so you’ll have fresh water and healthy snacks. then you’re going to challenge the strength and endurance of your upper body as well.
Healing Power of Hiking
Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health, and may even help cancer patients recover. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that long distance hiking trips may improve the anti-oxidative capacity, which helps fight off disease, in the blood of oncological patients. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised regularly, many in the form of hiking, believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment.
Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. You always have to be alert and prepared and up for the challenge when you’re dealing with nature because it’s full of surprises and you never really know what’s round the corner. The authors of the study also point out that the results may have as much to do with unplugging from technology as they do spending time outside. Researchers from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education also found that walking gets the creative juices flowing far more than sitting.
Better Social Connection
Hikers always recommend using the buddy system. A regular weekend meet-up or a planned long-distance trek can help you forge bonds while you shape up. Plus, interaction with the larger hiking community encourages you to engage with your workout as a lifestyle, rather than a chore, which will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul, because you really enjoy it. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, doing it consistently?
Set your Own Course
With hiking, you can chart your own path. Is it a slowly inclining scenic trail or a steep trek up a mountain? Is it in California, or Arkansas, or Michigan? And you set your own time, your own pace and distance, as well. Whether you decide on an afternoon hike, a weekend in the woods, or a long distance experience, you aren’t listening to a bossy fitness trainer tell you to work harder because you don’t need him.
To me, setting your own course on where you choose to hike (backpack) has always been what was so appealing to me, and still is. I tried running in my earlier years in life, and just couldn’t stay with it because I was always bored and didn’t enjoy it. I started hiking back then and I have not ever desired to do anything else. I can’t tell you the countless enjoyable hours I’ve spent over the years doing just that….hiking and backpacking, across this entire land we call America.
From the deep forest and rocky coast of Maine, to hiking an elk trail not even 3 feet wide, winding up the side of a mountain above 12,000 feet elevation, in the Rocky Mountains, to the depths of Grand Canyon, to the magnificent Redwood forest of Oregon, and so many other places in between, to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, would be an understatement! I actually still have my first and only North Face backpack I’ve ever owned, my Camp 7 down sleeping bag, and my Vasque leather hiking boots, all really still in pretty good shape. Of course the design and materials of hiking boots have changed a lot in the last 50 years since I first bought my Vasque boots, but here is some modern-day Vasque boots. At 72, I still enjoy hiking and still do it every chance I get, although it’s become a little harder now because most of my friends my age, aren’t physically able to do it anymore. So, I have to rely on doing it with my Son when he can arrange it, or hookup with a local hiking club, and that’s hit and miss.
Three Other Healthy Activities
Along with walking, hiking, and backpacking. the 3 other basic activities for maintaining your overall health and well being, are getting a minimum of 8 hours of restful sleep each night, eating the proper fresh nutrient-dense organic, non-GMO foods of 4 major food groups, and supplementing with the all-natural certified organic, non’GMO, whole-food Adaptogen Peruvian Maca.
Now that you understand the benefits of walking daily, are you ready to buy a backpack and hiking boots? Let’s hope so. What are your questions? Your comments are welcomed also.
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