Walking Equals Running for Heart and Diabetes Health

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

Even the experts were surprised by the comparison between walking and running just reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. Since I am a reformed jogger and am now a dedicated walker, the results delighted me and I think that they will make a lot of other people who have diabetes happy and healthy.

The difference with the new study is that it compared the number of miles we cover, not the amount of time we move. The study concluded that walking briskly can lower our risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes as much as running can.

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"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," says Paul T. Williams, Ph.D., the study's principal author. He is also a staff scientist in the life science division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Unlike previous studies, this new study compared the energy expenditure of walking and running by distance, not by time. The researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners' Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers' Health Study.

More is better both for running and walking. "The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits," Dr. Williams says. "But when the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable."

Actually, he's talking about the benefits that the study measured: high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol level, and diabetes risk. Running is, however notoriously hard on our knees, which is the main reason you don't see many senior citizens going out for a quick jog.

The trick is to take long walks, because running is a more efficient use of your exercise time. "Those who choose running end up exercising twice as much as those that choose walking. This is probably because they can do twice as much in an hour," Dr. Williams says.

An advantage of walking is that for many of us it is more sustainable than running. But if your knees can still take it, you have a choice. "People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise," he says. "But now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health."

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.