This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle’s health section on April 17, 2013.
Do you like long walks on the beach, or anywhere, for that matter? If so, new research says you’re probably getting as many health benefits as someone who prefers running.
An American Heart Association study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory followed more than 33,000 regular runners and 15,000 regular walkers for six years. Researchers found that, if walkers and runners burned the same number of calories during exercise, they experienced similar reductions in the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
In order to burn the same amount of energy as a runner, walkers had to walk longer distances. For example, to burn the energy a runner burns in 1 mile, a walker would need to go at a brisk pace for about 1.4 miles. But both the walkers and runners in the study decreased their personal risk of getting diabetes by about 12 percent compared with their risk level if they weren’t exercising at all. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease risks also fell at comparable rates for walkers and runners.
And the longer each group exercised, the more their health risks fell. The researchers said this is encouraging news because walking may be a more attractive workout option for the average American, especially as the population ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends most American adults participate in least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like running, each week.