Walking is just as healthy as running, study reveals

Shereen Dindar
Contributing Writer
Shine On

How many of you assume walking is not as healthy as running? The sheer cardiovascular intensity of running must make it healthier, right?

Not exactly. A study published last month in the online journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, claims that both walking and running offer the same health benefits -- namely a lowered risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The key, however, is that walkers must cover the same distance as runners in order for the health benefits to equalize. Too often, walkers measure their workouts in terms of time, which means they do not cover the same distance as a runners.

"Both of these activities reduce risk factors, and if you expend the same amount of energy you get the same benefit," lead scientist Paul Williams from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tells WebMD.

"They involve the same muscle groups performed at different intensities,” says Williams.

Williams and his team analyzed questionnaires from 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. Study participants were between 18 - 80 years old, mostly in their 40s and 50s. They were followed for a total of six years. Men represented 21 percent of the walkers and 51.4 percent of the runners.

Here are some of the study's specific findings:

  • Running reduced the risk of high blood pressure 4.2 per cent and walking reduced the risk 7.2 per cent.
  • Running reduced the risk for high cholesterol 4.3 per cent and walking lowered the risk 7 per cent.
  • Running lowered the risk for diabetes 12.1 per cent and walking reduced the risk 12.3 per cent.
  • Running decreased the risk of heart disease 4.5 per cent and walking reduced the risk 9.3 per cent.

It's worth noting, however, that while some previous studies suggest running is more beneficial than walking for weight loss, many of those studies compared the same amount of time spent, rather than distance covered.

“Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running," Williams says.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise, but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk.”