I am walking more lately… and enjoying it! I walk at night with my husband, James. I walk while my daughter (#5) runs (see My Workouts). I also walk during some of my runs. All of this walking has got me thinking…is walking just as good an exercise as running? The answer to that question, I believe, is that it depends. Lots of us believe that because we are more likely to burn more calories running than walking, that running is better. However, as I find myself smack dab in the middle of my 45th year of life…I believe better is relative.
Running has always been my favorite form of exercise. It is efficient, doesn’t involve equipment or a gym, and it is one of the best ways (when we are consistent about it) to maintain weight. However, along with my years of running have come years of “issues”. My issues began about 20 years ago with a pain in my hip…bursitis. Then a few years later…a pain in the outside of my left knee…IT Band. A few years after that…a pain way up at the top of my hamstring…a tear. Shortly after that…a pain in my hip again. I would go on, but it is causing a pain in my head.
I hope to continue running well into my later years, but I have to be realistic about it. In fact, I believe that in order to keep running, I have to cut back on it. I used to run about 5-6 days a week. Now it’s about 3-5. And realistically, it will have to probably be fewer than that if I want to avoid injury as I get older. That is where walking comes in. Walking makes sense for me as viable form of exercise. It is low-impact and that means it is less likely to cause injury. If we want to lose or maintain weight, walking has to be more intensive than just a stroll. We need to use our arms and try to walk at a brisk, if not fast, pace. When we walk this way, it is not easy. In fact when I walk with James I feel like I have to almost run to keep up with his much longer legs. This is good for me, though, and I feel afterwards like I got a great workout. I am sore the day after a good walk, in fact. Walking uses some different muscles than running, which is why my back side definately feels it the day after!
REI.com has a list of reasons that walking is a good form of exercise:
- Walking can reduce your risk of heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes and stroke.
- Walking is low-impact, which means it causes less stress to your joints and your body than high-impact activities such as running.
- Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which helps prevent the onset of osteoporosis in women.
- Posture: Stand up straight and look ahead. Don’t look down at your feet or the pavement below since that puts excessive and unnecessary strain on your neck and back.
- Overstriding: Walk naturally. When you walk faster, a natural inclination is to lengthen your stride in front. Don’t. Concentrate on taking shorter, quicker steps to avoid striking the ground too hard with your feet.
- Understriding: On the flip side, avoid taking steps that are too small. This can constrict your muscles and their elasticity. Listen to your body. Are you comfortable as you move? If not, change your stride until you are.
- Flapping feet: If your feet hit the ground with a slap you’re probably fighting stiff shoes or your shins are too weak to let you roll through the step properly. Find a good pair of walking shoes that flex at the balls of your feet, and work on strengthening your shins.
- Arm swing:A normal walking motion uses the arms to counterbalance the leg motion. You can add power and speed by using your arms effectively. To do this, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and swing them naturally back and forth opposite your legs. Avoid under-using your arms by not moving them enough or overusing them by moving them faster than your legs
When we run, we tear down and break down more muscle tissue than when we walk. The benefit of this is that broken down muscle tissue requires more time and calories to repair. The negative consequence however, can be injury. I am not switching from running to walking, but I am adding more walking and cutting back on my running…and this is a good thing I believe. How about you, have you tried walking for fitness?