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Walking, running offer similar heart health benefits

Lace up those walking shoes: A study published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that a brisk walk is just as good for heart health as running.

The study gathered medical and exercise information over six years from 33,060 runners enrolled in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers enrolled in the National Walkers’ Health Study. Participants were 18 to 80 years old, with many in their 40s and 50s.

Participants completed questionnaires about the distance they walked or ran, as well as whether they had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Running lowered the risk of being diagnosed with high cholesterol by 4.3 percent. Walking reduced the risk by 7 percent.
  • Running reduced coronary heart disease risk by 4.5 percent. Walking reduced that risk by 9.3 percent.
  • Running reduced the risk of high blood pressure by 4.2 percent. Walking reduced the risk by 7.2 percent.
  • Running and walking both reduced the risk of diabetes by about 12 percent.

“The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits,” said Paul T. Williams, PhD, the study’s principal author. “If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.”

The results are good news for anyone who has discovered the joys of walking or who wants to start exercising.

“Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running,” Dr. Williams said. “People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise, but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”

According to the AHA, walking is “the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health.”

The AHA recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days a week (for a total of 150 minutes) or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days a week (for a total of 75 minutes)—or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise. In addition, the AHA recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two or more days a week for additional health benefits.

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