Walking Vs. Running: Which Is Better For Your Bones?
Earlier this week, I wrote about a study that shows the unlikely connection between cataracts, osteoporosis, and walking and running. Both forms are beneficial weight-bearing exercises to increase bone density, so you may be wondering which is better for you.
Today, I’ll show you an easy trick I’m currently practicing that blends walking and running into one activity. And let me tell you, it’s a true bone-building powerhouse. But first, here’s how I discovered…
The Most Efficient Way To Practice A Weight-Bearing Activity
I really enjoy both walking and running. I used to walk regularly until 1999, when I joined the Greater Fort Lauderdale Road Runners’ Club. That’s when I started jogging almost every day, training as a long-distance runner at a nearby park with the Club. Much to my surprise, I ended up completing a half marathon in Disney in January of 2000.
But when I moved further South, it was too far away to meet with the Runners’ Club. So I joined a few friends for walks in my neighborhood, which was lots of fun…but when I suggested to run instead of walking, they refused. So it was back to walking for me.
Then last year, I decided to research which activity was actually better for bones and general health. Here’s what I found.
Running And Walking Are Both Beneficial…But Different
A study published in 2013 showed essentially the same health benefits from walking as running. Participants from the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study were compared; they ranged in age from 18 to 80, and were tracked for 6 years. Researchers determined that both runners and walkers enjoyed the same benefits:
- Reduced risk of hypertension
- Decreased cholesterol
- Lower risk for diabetes
- Decreased risk of developing coronary artery disease1
Of course, walking and running are weight-bearing exercises strongly recommended in the Save Our Bones Program to increase bone density, in addition to targeted exercises that build the areas most susceptible to fractures.
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that regular jogging actually increased the femoral neck (the column of bone connecting the head of the femur and the shaft, just below the hip joint) density in men aged 20 to 59.2 A strong femoral neck is vital to preventing hip fractures.
The researchers point out that calorie burning is the key element that ties running and walking together. For walkers and runners to achieve the same benefits, walkers need to burn as many calories as the runners…which means they need to go farther and exercise longer. Running simply makes calorie-burning more efficient.
Regular walking or running also improves mood and increases energy levels.
While running has been shown in various studies to be the superior exercise in terms of weight loss – even if the same amount of calories are burned in the walking session as in the running one – not everyone wants or needs to lose weight, and not everyone is able to run for a variety of reasons.
How I Reap The Maximum Benefits Of Both
So here’s what I am doing now, in addition to practicing the Densercise moves three-times-a-week for only 15 minutes each time. I blend running and walking to get the maximum benefits from both.
This is exactly how I do it:
First, I warm up by walking at regular speed for about 10 minutes. Then, I sprint for 1 minute and walk for 5 minutes. I repeat this sprint/walk pattern for 40 minutes, and I end with a 10-minute cool-down of moderate speed walking.
If you’ve never run before, I suggest you start with no more than three or four sprint/walk patterns, and slowly build your way up. Then you can copy what I’m doing. (As a side-note, when you follow the Save Our Bones Program, you’re copying exactly what I and thousands in the community are doing to successfully reverse and prevent osteoporosis – essentially there’s no guesswork whatsoever!).
If what I’m doing doesn’t work for you, here are other ideas that are also effective.
- Speed-Walking: Warm up for 5 minutes, and then walk as fast as you can for 10 minutes. If you’re on a track or treadmill, note how far you walked or how many laps. Then walk back the same distance, starting at a brisk pace and then slowing to a moderately slow pace toward the end to cool down.
- Take a Very Long Walk. As noted above, walkers need to go further for longer to reap the same benefits as running.
- Abdominal Walk: When you’re walking at your regular pace, pull your tummy in toward your spine, remembering not to hold your breath. Maintain this muscle contraction throughout your walk if possible.
- Try Walking Poles. While I am an advocate of exercise that does not require special equipment, it certainly is an option. Walking poles look like ski poles, and they help engage the core muscles and arms.
- Walk Uphill as part of your routine, whether that means an actual hill or an incline on your treadmill.
For best results, make sure you combine the above activities with exercises that target fracture-prone areas, such as the ones shown in Densercise.
The Bottom Line: Walking And Running Are Good For Your Bones
The unfortunate “modern” tendency to sit for long periods is putting everyone’s health and bone density at risk. So whether you choose to walk, run, or combine the two, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.
Till next time,
1 Williams, Paul T. and Thompson, Paul D. “Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction.” ATVBAHA. 112.300878. April 4, 2013. doi: 10.1161. Web. http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/04/04/ATVBAHA.112.300878.abstract#cited-by
2 Mussolino, M.E., et al. “Jogging and bone mineral density in men: results from NHANES III.” American Journal of Public Health. 2001 July; 91(7): 1056-1059. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446719/