For heart health, a brisk walk is a good as a run

Distance travelled is more important than time exercising

Brisk walking may be just as effective as running at reducing the risk of blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, according to a study in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

For the study, Paul Williams of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Hartford Hospital cardiologist Paul Thompson examined data on more than 33,000 runners from the National Runners' Health Study and almost 16,000 walkers from the National Walkers' Health Study. The individuals ranged from ages 18 to 80, with most being in their 40s or 50s.

The study found that, compared to individuals who did not run or walk for exercise:

  • Hypertension risk fell by 4.2% in runners and 7.2% in walkers;
  • High cholesterol risk fell by 4.3% for runners and 7% for walkers;
  • Diabetes risk fell by 12.1% for runners and 12.3% for walkers; and
  • Heart disease risk fell by 4.5% in runners and 9.3% in walkers.

Overall, the distance traveled matter more than the time spent walking or running when it came to heart health.

Gregg Fonarow, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the findings "suggest similar benefit for similar energy expenditures with exercise regardless of intensity" (Reinberg, HealthDay, 4/4).

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