Walking vs. Running: Which Exercise Offers Greater Health Benefits?

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Walking has been ingrained as the ultimate physical therapy to keep diseases, fatigue, ageing and earlier death as far away from us as it can be. However, running is stepping up to the gym too leaving us with an unenviable task of picking which of the two is best overall. This discussion reviews the available literature on the two exercises and draws some surprising conclusions.

Walking is convenient, accessible, simple, effective and adaptable least drains us tending to be popular and acceptable in many walks of life. Walking regularly is linked to a reduction of the risk of many health problems including anxiety, depression, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Obviously, walking with all its tangible upfront is a way to go but has raised an interesting question: is it the best option out there when accosted with running? Once walking is accustomed it may become a bit boring and the motivation may dissipate. Walking itself comes in different forms and may have a variety of benefits.

Some types of walking are pacy, and one may palpitate to differentiate it from running. The best example is an Olympics walking competition that strikes as slow running with hands keeping the balance to thwart falling that may lead to disqualification.

Weighing on health benefits we need to define variables necessary in the determination of the health benefits of the two. Topping the list is cardiovascular exercises that put both lungs and heart at the centre of the exercises. Deepening lung exhales and inhales summed up as breathing quickens blood flow in the arteries, and sweeps or helps to burn stubborn deposits stuck in the blood capillaries long associated with heart and stroke causes.

Read Related: Mental Health Matters: Empowering Tanzania’s Well-Being Revolution

When considering the health benefits of an activity like walking or running, there are two connected factors to keep in mind. One is the workout’s effect on your fitness — that is, how it improves the efficiency of your heart and lungs. The second is the ultimate positive outcome: Does it help you live a longer life?

The gold standard for assessing fitness is VO2 max, a measure of how much oxygen your body uses when you’re exercising vigorously. It’s also a strong predictor of life span. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. But too often, the only measurement people use to evaluate their progress is their weight, which is not the most accurate metric to assess fitness and can be emotionally fraught.

For one thing, muscle is denser than fat, so if you’re doing a lot of strength training, the number on the scale could go up as you work out more. Additionally, research suggests that body size does not necessarily correspond to health: “Fitness is more important than fatness to your cardiovascular and metabolic health, and your overall risk of morbidity and mortality,” said Lee Stoner, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Running is better than walking because of interweaving efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency since less time is needed to achieve the same goals desired from walking. Effective due to bursts of energy drawn out from the body. Why? It’s more than the increased speed. Rather than lifting one foot at a time, running involves a series of bounds.

This requires more force, energy and power than walking, For many people first starting, running at any pace — even a slow jog — will make your heart and lungs work harder. That can raise your level of effort to what’s known as vigorous activity, meaning you’re breathing hard enough that you can speak only a few words at a time.

Federal health guidelines recommend 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, or half as much for vigorous activity. That might suggest that running is twice as good as walking. But when it comes to the key outcome of longevity, some studies have found running to be even more effective than that.

In 2011, researchers in Taiwan asked more than 400,000 adults how much vigorous exercise (like jogging or running) and moderate exercise (like brisk walking) they did. They found that regular five-minute runs extended subjects’ life spans as much as going for 15-minute walks did. Regular 25-minute runs and 105-minute walks each resulted in about a 35% lower risk of dying during the following eight years.

My Take

While both walking and running may carry different levels of benefits doing one or both should be a huge plus compared to those hibernating in a sedentary life. However, physical engagement such as walking or/and running regularly is half-measure unless a more spiritual incorporation is accommodated. I say so because while mental issues can be ameliorated by physios most mental ailments are spiritual as I had elaborated in my previous article.

Also, read: The Power of Thought: How Our Minds Shape Reality and Influence Health

Comprehensive weaponry against mental and physical degeneration demands an array of tools to be at our disposal every day. Meditational prayers before night sleep and earlier in the morning while in bed will go a long way to uplift your spirits placing you into a positive mental state and attitude.

This is easier to appreciate once you study how other creatures behave. A cockerel once awake in the morning does not burst out full of energy but every step is taken tentatively. One is opening then closing one eye then the other as well before both eyes are gingerly opened. Then one leg is stretched followed by the other.

All these steps are taken slowly before it crows to remind all and sundry let us celebrate a new day God has made! That crow is full of life and gratitude. If such a creature refuses to take life for granted because it is precious what is stopping us from learning big lessons about healthy living from it?

The lesson there the heart, lungs and all the mental and physical capacities need a lot of messaging before a full blast of energy is released. The whole body and mental faculties after several hours of sleep cannot be pushed to act as if everything is back in a normal state. One has to acknowledge that limiting friction similar to that of a train when beginning to travel or stop has to overcome or apply to limit friction to its advantage. So are we!

Meditation prayers are meant either to act as sleeping lullabies or something to that effect. By the time we rest in bed, we need to apply brakes that can slow the body preparing it for a serene rest. Similarly, we need to do the same in the morning to overcome limiting friction that is often taken for granted.

Forcing the mental and carnal facets to behave as if there are no lapses between sleep and waking up does trigger heart, lungs and other ailments even if walking and or running is part and parcel of our daily recipes. The real reason is overworking and straining these very fragile organs to detrimental effect.

Meditation is best when is mixed with faith-based teachings where applicable. Recitations of inspirational scriptures are the simple yet effective ways to align ourselves with Our Maker who supplies us according to His glorious riches. For those who are non-believers picking on inspirational sayings may achieve similar results but sadly I have no way of ascertaining that since I am a believer.

Keep walking, running regularly and meditating daily as long as you live since your longevity and good health depend on it!

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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