By Scott Markey | Get Fit
Running has long been an important training device for enhancing general fitness and sporting performance. Jogging for fitness also has many devotees, but in my opinion and the opinion of sports medicine doctors, several proven tests have revealed that running and or jogging may not be the most effective way to maintain fitness and health.
A superior alternative to running is “power walking,” and the arguments — convincing or not — are highly instructive and helpful. So let’s explore a few of the relevant issues in hopes of clarifying the situation.
The medical profession has long been aware of the benefits of walking, and most readers will know that walking has, for some decades now, been recommended as one of the best preventatives and rehabilitation activities for certain forms of cardiovascular disease. While walking itself is very old, there is much that is new and exciting about our understanding of its value for health and sport.
Walking vs. running
It has long been thought that running is a natural bodily movement, and millions of joggers and runners around the world to this day still believe this. The truth is, however, that despite the vagueness of the term “natural,” the human body accommodates running much less naturally than it does walking.
While walking, both feet are never off the ground simultaneously, and there is a double-support phase in which both feet are on the ground.
The plain truth is that the human body is far better adapted to walking than it is to running. This is the major reason runners are so susceptible to injury and walkers are not. In walking, the stress exerted on the grounded leg is about one and a half times the walker’s bodyweight and quite evenly distributed across the joint complexes. In running, the stress factor is exerted unevenly upon the single leg, and is three to six times the runner’s bodyweight! The stress to the ligaments, muscles, hip joints, knees, ankles and feet are catastrophic, especially when one considers the distance involved.
It is now known that 25 percent of all knee injuries derived from running are due to the angular stresses on the knee joint, causing the painful condition we call bursitis. Both men and women, fitness athletes, bodybuilders, and most other competitive athletes are finding that the benefits of power walking far exceed those of running. Besides being virtually injury-free, power walking is a more effective weight-reduction exercise, by inhibiting fat loss, without the loss of lean muscle tissue.
On another level, walking or power walking induces the production of endorphins and norepinephrines in the brain, both of which contribute to a feeling of well-being and assist in stress reduction, and lower cortisol levels. Also, the increased oxygen supply to the brain during the walking activity improves concentration, memory and stimulates the clarity of thought.
In summary, running is by its very nature a stressful activity; walking, or power walking is not. Best part of all is that you reap twice the benefits of running by simply walking or power walking.
Walking improves cardiovascular functions, reduces fat and strengthens muscles and bones without adversely affecting them. Let’s not forget the added benefit of relieving stress and inducing moods of euphoria.
I myself will admit to not doing enough walking, or cardio work of this fashion myself. Anyone that knows me will attest to that. I have really never needed to do it due to my metabolism. Much of the aforementioned above has changed that.
Stay healthy, San Diego.
—Scott Markey has over 25 years in the fitness and health industry. He has graced dozens of magazine covers and specializes in physique management, training and nutritional consultation. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.