Walking As Good As Running for Seniors, Study Shows


Feeling bad that you can’t run laps anymore? Don’t. A new study shows that walking can be just as healthy as running, especially in terms of cardiovascular health, blood sugar management and diabetes prevention, and cholesterol and blood pressure reduction. The only catch is you have to walk longer to get the same results as a runner.

The American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology recently published the results of a study that compared the health benefits of running to those of walking in 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. Both groups experienced similar health benefits when expending similar calories; it’s all about the work you put in, not the time it takes.

Let’s take a look at the study by the numbers:

  • Running reduced the risk of hypertension by 4.2 percent, high cholesterol by 4.3 percent, diabetes by 12.1 percent and specific types of heart disease by 4.5 percent.
  • Walking reduced the risk of hypertension by 7.2 percent, high cholesterol by 7 percent, diabetes by 12.3 percent, and heart disease by 9.3 percent.

Not only will walking offer the same results as running for diabetes prevention, but it’s actually more effective for reducing the risks of the other diseases evaluated in the study.

Walking May Be Safer for Seniors
For seniors, walking represents a reduced risk of falls, repetitive stress injuries, stress fractures or shin splints. Since seniors’ bones are often more brittle and balance may diminish as we get older, these risks associated with running increase with age.

Tips for Safer Walking
To be safe while you walk, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, after and during your exercise. Warm up with some light stretches and begin at a slower pace, picking up speed (if you want) as you move along your walk.

Walk only on well-lighted paths or during the day, with a buddy. Don’t forget to bring a cell phone or pager so you can call someone in an emergency.

Many senior communities offer beautiful, well-groomed walking paths right on the campus. Stay on these paths, rather than walking in unfamiliar areas.

For an ideal walking workout, you should be able to carry on a light conversation in your normal voice, at normal volume and tone. If you begin to feel dizzy or too short of breath, stop.

Consider wearing a pedometer. Some models allow you to gauge your speed, how far you’ve walked, and how many calories you’ve burned. Keeping track of this activity can make your workout more fun and keep you motivated to continue.

If you’re just starting out and have been inactive, start by walking five to 10 minutes per day. Gradually increase the time and distance until you reach an hour or more.

Ramp Up Your Walking Workout
To keep your daily walks from getting boring, consider the following:

  • Incorporate interval training, where you walk faster for five minutes, then slower for five, alternating throughout your workout.
  • Stop and perform stretches, yoga, or tai chi moves
  • Walk to music
  • Walk with a friend and play games like 20 Questions or the Name Game as you go

It’s great news to hear that walking offers the same benefits as running, because seniors are more likely to continue with a walking regimen. And the best exercise is any exercise that you do regularly.

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