Running Vs Walking™

To keep fit, your flat mate swears by lunchtime runs, while a colleague reckons that it's walking everywhere that keeps her in shape. Here's how to decide what will suit you.

For Weight Loss

You can lose weight whether you walk or run. Any cardio exercise will improve your body's efficiency.

Running

For optimum fitness, do three 15-minute runs a week at 75% of your maximum heart rate. To work out yours, subtract your age from 220 (beats per minute). Exercising at your 'fat-burning pace' (50% of your maximum heart rate) will burn more fat than carbs, but working out more intensely will burn more of both.

Walking

If you are overweight or are starting an exercise program, walking is the best thing you can do. It'll up your heart rate, which helps burn fat. Aim for five 45-minute walks a week. The bad news ? If you're generally fit, walking won't affect your weight much, unless you're power walking. For most people, walking helps maintain fitness rather than shed kilos.

For General Health

Running and walking have the same health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type-2 diabetes, stress and depression.

Runners experience greater benefits than walkers, because they train at a higher intensity. It's a fact that the harder you work out, the better it is for you. But leave the dumbbells at home. In the '80s, it was thought that exercising with dumbbells maximized the health benefits of the session. But we now know it raises blood pressure, which means the risks outweigh the benefits.

Studies have found that walking can improve your mental health. (In fact, any sort of exercise releases the body's 'happy' chemicals - endorphins - so even at a slow pace you'll notice an improvement in your mood.) Simply going for a stroll around the block is an excellent stress-buster and, if you push the pace to a brisk walk, you'll improve your cardio fitness too.

For the Joints

It may surprise you to learn that walkers are susceptible to exactly the same injuries as runners - but their risk of being injured is much lower. The top five running injuries are shin splints, blisters, runner's knee, Achilles tendonitis and inflammation of the foot. How can we avoid them? Most injuries occur when people wear shoes that look fine but aren't appropriate for the activity. Ask a professional fitter to recommend the right trainers for you and get new shoes every six months. While walking is gentler on your joints than running, you still need to protect yourself by choosing low-impact training surfaces, such as grass, dirt, an athletics track or a treadmill. And keep an eye on the soles of your shoes - if they show excessive wear on the inner sides, you're pronating (your foot rolls inwards). Look for shoes with motion-control and stability.

For Sustainability

Our bodies get used to exercise, so runners and walkers should mix up their routines. The best thing to do is increase intensity. Running is demanding but it's easier to stick to it if you start off gently. Some experts say that it takes six weeks to learn a new habit, so don't go too hard too soon. Expect it to be tough for a while, and that alone should make it easier. There's also the phenomenon called 'runner's high', which gets people hooked. It's a feeling of euphoria induced by high-intensity exercise.

At some point, walking won't continue to benefit you physically, unless you step up the rate and pace. Increase the amount of time you spend walking by 10% each week. And try the buddy test: if you can gossip nonstop during your workout, you should increase the intensity - but not so much that you can't speak at all.

by Sandra Prior

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