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Walking Vs. Running: Which Is Better For Your Bones?

walking-vs-running

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Take a Very Long Walk. As noted above, walkers need to go further for longer to reap the same benefits as running.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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,

References

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/

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35 comments. Leave Yours Now →

  1. miriam roberts August 4, 2014, 10:12 am

    Hi Vivian
    Just wanted to say thank you for all the valuable information you have emailed to me over the past months. I will really miss all the good tips regarding prevention for Osteoporosis aids as I am retiring on 29 August and alas I am not on the internet at home. I say once again many thanks for all the information

    Chow Miriam

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2014, 3:12 pm

      You are most welcome, Miriam! We will miss you on the site – maybe you can get your home “wired” for internet and still stay in touch. :)

  2. DORIS BUEHLER March 2, 2014, 12:49 pm

    I TRIED WALKING ON A TREDMILL, HOWEVER, THAT MADE MY HIPS HURT, SO NOW I JUST WALK AT A LOCAL PARK AREA OR AT MY LOCAL CLUB. I DID PLAY A LOT OF TENNIS, BUT AT 80 I WENT INTO RETIREMENT ON THAT. THE TENNIS BACKGROUND DID MAKE MY LEGS VERY STRONG.

  3. Jane Hughes March 1, 2014, 9:43 pm

    Love your advice please keep up the good advice

  4. Rosemary February 28, 2014, 11:44 am

    When it’s pool weather, I love walking back and forth in the pool. Great resistance. Plus I do other exercises in the pool but the walking feels more beneficial.

  5. Linda February 28, 2014, 8:35 am

    I used to run 5k’s, but then began to develop a tiny bit of knee pain, so switched to brisk walking. With all the recent emphasis on interval training, I’ve begun to, after a few minutes of warm-up, sprint 30 seconds, then walk for 90 seconds (8 times, followed by cool down. I run uphill so it uses more energy even if I don’t run hard, then walk back down. This is a variation in Vivian’s routine that doesn’t put quite so much stress on the joints.

  6. Pearl February 28, 2014, 7:17 am

    Thankyou Vivian, but I keep getting those email quotes that says that one of the joys of being older is that no one expects you to run anywhere ! !!!
    Sighh, looks like they’re wrong then.
    Seriously though, thanks for the info, it’s very helpful as usual, but I don’t think i will be able to add in the running, as i have already had a spine fracture & anything that jolts my spine up & down hurts, & I feel could cause another one.
    I do manage short bursts of fast, like power walking.

  7. karin cocker February 28, 2014, 6:31 am

    Im 64 an ex polo crosse player. then a cyclist. Ive got osteo porosis and huge loss of bone density. I hurt. (Popped out). a vertebrae in a bus bumping over a hump. Had Balloon Kyroplasty all fixed .My lower spine is very stiff but I can do yoga. I walk in the zambian bush daily. My muscles esp thigh are burning sore 24/7 .
    If i sit or drive the 90 km to town, I seize and take ages to stand up. Ive been mostly Standing up for years (im a farmer and artist)
    IS THIS WHAT OSTEO IS?? ALL ALL DAY PAIN? Very stiff back hips and legs?? Im walking and trying the weight bearing ex..bye karin

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 28, 2014, 3:55 pm

      Karin, that sounds very challenging – do you have a naturally-minded doctor or chiropractor who can help you get to the root of what’s causing your pain?

  8. karin cocker February 28, 2014, 6:10 am

    Wow! My d-in-law ordered vivians book for me! Its just arrived in our little town near the victoria falls. In ZAMBIA. AFRICA!!
    Thank you for all the osteo etc infomation! I tried aledronic acid twice and just knew as it burned my middle..that it was Wrong!!my lower spine is sore 24/7 but wth new book. im now hopeful!! xx karin

    • Vicki April 19, 2014, 10:04 am

      Karin, my heart goes out to you. Best wishes to you, don’t give up!

  9. Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel) February 27, 2014, 8:27 pm

    Hi! Vivian,

    Great Article On WALKING VS RUNNING. Thank You Very Much For Sharing It With Us.

    LOVE, Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel)

  10. Catherine February 27, 2014, 3:37 pm

    Thanks for the good article.

    For those who can’t walk due to weather reasons, if possible, look into obtaining a quality treadmill. I understand it isn’t always do-able for a variety of reasons. If do-able, it is a great investment.

  11. Luc February 27, 2014, 3:24 pm

    Walking with a weighted vest or belt will help too!

  12. pegge February 27, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Thanks for you’re wisdom–I go walking when its nice out-live in Chicago-I was told running was bad on your internal organs? What do you know about this? I used to go jogging every day. Your idea sounds good to me. Do you know about Tropical Oasis its a liquid calcium/magnesium that was suggested to me. I take New Chapter Calcium pills right now, but have a hard time absorbing calcium. Thanks for any insight. I have your Save our bones book & densercise.

  13. Sheila Dillingham February 27, 2014, 12:25 pm

    I have good intentions of starting the walk/run activity you mentioned as soon as this harsh winter turns. I also have a question about taking a injection for osteo. My doctor suggested either reclast or boniva. I appreciate your comment on reclast. My bone scan test showed a -2.6. Thank you!

    • Josephine D'alessandro February 27, 2014, 10:05 pm

      Snow shoeing and cross country skiing are fun ways to be active in the winter. Cross country skiing is very low impact and beginner friendly. Snow shoeing on hard crusted snow is high impact. Deep crusted snow enables one to explore places that are difficult to reach without the snow cover. Tracks in the snow enable you to bush whack without fear of getting lost. Snow is a forgiving surface to fall on.

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 28, 2014, 3:54 pm

        Very true, Josephine – snow can provide some “cushion” when you’re learning to cross-country ski. :)

  14. Diane February 27, 2014, 10:27 am

    I was told that because I don’t weigh a lot, 90 lbs, walking isn’t much of a weight resistant exercise and not that helpful so I would think that adding in some jogging would give me more “good” stress on the bones. Because I also have osteoporosis in the spine I have read the up and down movement of jogging could cause fractures in the spine but not one doctor I’ve seen can say whether it’s safe to jog. Any thoughts on this?

  15. Jean February 27, 2014, 9:30 am

    Oh, how I miss my daily 3 mile walk! Where I live, we’ve been battered by an unremitting winter of subzero cold, snow and ice. Although I’ve walked my way through many prior winters, not this one! Since we live in a multi-level house, I’ve been running up and down stairs as much as possible (never take the easy way!), but I’ll be very grateful to resume my daily walk schedule as soon as possible. Happy spring, everyone!

  16. Dianne February 27, 2014, 9:15 am

    Hi, do you have any tips for timing the walk / sprint intervals? Do you were a particular type of watch? I have also been wondering how to easily time my densercize exercises. Any suggestions?

    Also, I saw in a previous response above that you mention seeing a chiropractor. I have recently started seeing one due to back issues. I have been concerned about being adjusted since I have osteoporosis – so we are doing gentle adjustments by just using the little hand held adjusting thing. Any comments regarding chiropractic treatment? Thanks.

  17. Mary Kay Rudeen February 27, 2014, 8:26 am

    Hi Vivian, I was wondering if you are getting any closer to making an exercise DVD. I am getting curvature of the spine from Osteo and I do your exercises but it would be so much easier to follow a DVD instead of holding the papers for each exercise. Thanks…

  18. Marisa February 27, 2014, 8:23 am

    I recently purchased your program after being offered Miacalcin by my endocrinologist which I refused. My spine tscore is-2.4. (A 5% decrease over 4 years). I have been taking Algaecal along with a multivitamin and I eat a healthy diet. A friend of mine is taking a supplement with MIcrocrystalline hydroxyapatite. With a lack of clinical study out there that worries me. What are your thought about this supplement.

  19. Wendy February 27, 2014, 8:16 am

    Hi Vivian!
    Thanks a lot for all your encouragements and advices. I’ve started with a zumba class since a month ago but it’s only one hour a week. I will try to walk/sprint at least 15mins thrice a week and we will see.. Thank you very much for all the emails.

  20. Sharon February 27, 2014, 7:57 am

    Give Race walking (olympic sport) a try, it is the best of both running and walking.

  21. abimanu February 27, 2014, 5:34 am

    Hi Vivian
    Is the advice for young people like you ?
    I am 78, would your advice of alternate running and walking work for me?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 27, 2014, 7:28 am

      Walking and running can work for all ages! But you might want to check with your health practitioner first to see if this activity is a good fit for you :)

  22. Muhabbet Ali February 27, 2014, 5:10 am

    Dear Vivian,
    I may be wrong but its my feel I got knee pain by walking uphill on a small hill and then coming down briskly. Reg.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 27, 2014, 7:27 am

      Muhabbet, you are right to stop if you experience pain! A physical therapist or chiropractor might be able to help correct any misalignment and help reduce inflammation, and if you have a doctor you trust, perhaps he or she can shed some light on why you’re in pain when walking uphill.

  23. Elli Harding February 27, 2014, 3:54 am

    Hi Vivienne,

    I have osteoporosis and doctor would like me to consider either these tablets: Actonel, Fosamax or Accasta injection once a year. What is your opinion with Accasta injection?

  24. Annabelle February 27, 2014, 3:42 am

    Just returned from 40 min. brisk walk including a hill and feel great. You are so right about the positive effect walking in the sunshine among trees etc. has on one. Thanks so much for your regular reminders and information.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 27, 2014, 7:24 am

      You’re welcome, Annabelle. And it’s so true that getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air just adds more benefit to the exercise!

  25. Elaine February 27, 2014, 3:39 am

    Actually i have been doing this walk /sprint thing lately without giving it too much thought, originally in an endeavour to avoid lateness. I dont time it and the sprinting is minimal but suddenly realised it could be beneficial.
    Im a little nervous to run as ive had quite a few falls in the past, whie I was just walking.
    Also thought to myself i could be getting the best of both worlds, exactly as you expained it. Wise minds think alike, as the saying goes. I don’t have any weight to lose.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 27, 2014, 7:23 am

      It sounds like you are already doing things right, Elaine!

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