A woman in her mid-70s, walking briskly, nearly caught the overweight man as he jogged on the indoor track at Premier Health and Fitness Center in Tallahassee. The man managed to stay ahead and finished 13 laps for the first time. Thirteen laps on the inside lane made a mile.
The fast-walking woman was an inspiration to the man.
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While he only wished the best for the woman and gym colleagues in their pursuit of self-improvement, he admittedly was also pleased to see another fitness member plodding along on the track – an observation met with skepticism by the man’s usually supportive wife.
MAN: There was a guy on the track today who was even fatter than me.
MAN: No, really…
Given the man’s extra poundage and potential for old orthopedic issues (ankle sprains, heel spurs, etc.), even with the perfectly level track surface at the climate-controlled fitness center, he wondered if – like the speedy older woman – he would be better off walking than running.
Which form of exercise was a better fit for him?
If weight loss was the primary goal, running would certainly burn off many more calories per minute than walking.
The man’s preference for jogging also coincided with recommendations from the exercise physiology lab at the University of Wyoming. A study at the school, which was published in the Journal of Obesity (yes, this is a real journal), included nine experienced female runners and 10 committed female walkers as participants.
The researchers found the runners had significantly higher blood levels of peptide YY – a hormone known to suppress appetite. The walkers’ blood levels did not reflect increased peptide YY levels.
The study suggested running would lead to weight loss faster than walking.
In another study titled “Greater Weight Loss From Running than Walking,” and published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers, combining survey data from 15,237 walkers and 32,215 runners enrolled in the National Runners and Walkers Health Study, came up with the same conclusion: For persons looking to control their weight, running wins over walking by a large margin.
But walking – especially brisk walking – has some advantages over running.
In a study published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology journal (American Heart Association journal), both runners and walkers were found to be at less risk of high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol profiles, diabetes, and heart disease than their sedentary peers.
However, with the same energy expenditure, researchers found that walkers reduced their risk of heart disease by 9.3 percent as compared to the runners’ 4.5 percent reduced risk.
With low-impact walking, there is generally less chance of injury than with running – although walking is probably still more risky than the low-impact cardiovascular exercise favored by the man’s wife.
A big proponent of swimming, she recommended he should, like her, spend less time on the track and more time in the pool at the fitness center. She encouraged him to do a few laps in the big pool – and stop eating so much at night.
The man got defensive when confronted with the latter recommendation.
MAN: I’m serious about cutting back on the late-night snacks.
MAN: No, really…
If he had been a participant in the study at the exercise physiology lab in Wyoming, the researchers would have had to tabulate pizza crusts and chicken-wing bones in addition to drawing blood for peptide YY hormone levels.
Mark Ryan, a registered nurse, and his wife, Anabel Perez, are members of Premier Health and Fitness Center in Tallahassee.
Journal of Obesity: hindawi.com/journals/jobe/
The Guardian: “Brisk walk healthier than running – scientists” –
Women’s Health: “How Many Calories Can I Burn While Walking Versus Running?” –
Healthy Living: “Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise?”
Consumer reports: The Benefits of Running vs. Walking
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