I have good news for those of you who hate to sweat but want to get in shape: walking may be just as beneficial as running if you want to lose weight. While running certainly isn’t a bad idea, walking for exercise is much more accessible for the average person. Once you know the benefits of walking, you might re-think taking your lunch break to sit in the staff room staring at a magazine.
Benefits of running
It should come as no surprise that running uses around 2.5 times as much energy as does walking. Of course, the more energy used, the more calories are burned in a shorter period of time. Even when the same amount of energy is used, runners still tend to lose more weight. Runners also maintain their body mass index over time, and running may help regulate a person’s appetite. Again, running for exercise certainly has its benefits, but it has its downsides as well.
Negatives of running
When runners lose weight, it’s lost from their muscle mass rather than fat storage. This happens because your muscles are more metabolic and therefore burn more calories than fat does. And despite the fact that running steadily may regulate a person’s appetite, too much running increases a body’s production of cortisol. This stress hormone actually increases a person’s appetite. Not only can over-exerting yourself cause your appetite to increase, but it also makes you leptin-resistant. This blocks your body from notifying you when you are too full, which results in overeating. Finally, an increase in cortisol will also result in your thyroid’s inability to produce the hormone T4, which leads to a loss of energy and an inability to burn fat.
Pros of Walking
Walking actually reduces your risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in much the same way running does, despite the discrepancy in intensity. To lose a pound in a week, you should aim to burn about 500 calories a day. You can do this by power walking for one hour each day. Or, if you don’t have a full hour block of time in which to exercise and don’t want to work up a sweat during your day job, just make sure you spend at least an hour and a half on your feet throughout the day. You’d be shocked at how much time you spend walking on a daily basis. Use a step counter and you’ll realize you probably spend at least 60 minutes walking throughout your daily routine.
If possible, increase the intensity of your walk without bursting out into an all out sprint by holding small weights as you go. If you use a treadmill, increase the incline intermittently. If you’re walking around your neighborhood, don’t avoid those hills – they’re good for you.
Lastly, since walking doesn’t require as much energy as running does, you’ll also be more open to other exercises and weight training after a 30-minute walk. Don’t waste the energy you have – work hard to reach your goals.
A Matter of Preference
While it’s obvious that both walking and running are beneficial to your overall health, it’s simply a matter of your choice which method of exercise you’d prefer. However, if you choose to run, be careful not to burn yourself out or over-exert yourself. You could end up doing more damage to your body than good. On the other hand, walking is a great way to stay in control while you stride toward your goal. While finding time to change into gym clothes and hit the track for a run is definitely a time-consuming process, you can fit time for walking into your daily schedule almost seamlessly. Walk on!
Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm3.staticflickr.com