Is Walking as Good as Running?

People who do equivalent amounts of running and walking have the same degree of benefit in terms of blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.

Background: According to CDC classification, running is a “vigorous” exercise, because runners usually end up sweaty and short of breath. They burn about eight times more energy than they would sitting on the couch. Meanwhile walking is “moderate” exercise that involves 3.8 times more energy than sitting.

 

The Study: When the 33,000 participants in the National Runners’ Health Study were compared to the 15,000 participants in the National Walkers’ Health Study, the runners appeared to have much better heart health than the walkers. Their risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes was reduced by 38, 36, and 71 percent, respectively, regardless of how much running they reported doing. So running is not only sweatier, it’s also healthier, right?

Researchers took the data from the walkers’ and runners’ health study, and controlled for how much energy the exercisers were expending. By looking at it this way, they were attempting to compare the inherent benefits of each form of exercise. The participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 80, all reported their height, weight, diet, and the miles per week they spent walking or running. They were followed for about 6 years, during which time the researchers tracked all health problems.

Results:Regardless of whether exercise was vigorous (running) or not (walking), as long as participants used the same amount of energy, they saw more or less equivalent health benefits. Runners saw a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary artery disease by 4.2, 4.3, 12.1, and 4.5 percent, respectively. The walkers’ risk reduction for each condition was 7.2, 7, 12.3, and 9.3 percent — amounts that didn’t differ significantly from the runners’ results. The more energy walkers and runners used, the more their cardiovascular health improved.

What Does This Mean? The key to improved cardiovascular health, according to this study, is calorie expenditure, regardless of how it’s expended. Runners aren’t healthier by virtue of being runners — they’re just more efficient in their exercising. If you prefer walking, you can be just as well off, health-wise. “Assuming a slow jogging speed of a 12 minute mile, compared to a walking speed of 17 minute miles, you would need to walk about 50 percent further to expend the same energy as running,” lead author Paul Williams explains. In terms of time, “you would need to walk for about twice as long.”

 

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter. Of course, the disclaimer: Do not begin an exercise program without input from an appropriate medical professional. Many can simply start with a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily, 5 days per week. Have a wonderful day!

References:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/study-walking-can-be-as-good-as-running/274738/?utm_source=atlfb
  2. Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction” is published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Couples More Likely to Get Healthy Together

What You Need to Know: People are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

The Evidence: Scientists at UCL funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging looked at how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did. The research looked at 3,722 couples, either married or living together and over the age of 50, who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

  • People were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well. For example, among women who smoked, 50 percent managed to quit if their partner gave up smoking at the same time, compared with 17 per cent of women whose partners were already non-smokers, and eight per cent of those whose partners were regular smokers.
  • Men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same behaviour change.

My Take: Now is the time to exercise (even a 30 minute brisk walk, 5 times perweek can meaningfully improve your health), maintain a healthy diet and weight, be prudent about alcohol consumption, and quit tobacco. These lifestyle changes can make a big difference to our health and cancer risk. And this study shows that when couples make those changes together they are more likely to succeed. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.


References:

  • Sarah E. Jackson, Andrew Steptoe, Jane Wardle. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554
  • Cancer Research UK. “Couples more likely to get healthy together.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150119124551.htm>.

Lower Your Heart Disease Risk in Just 5 Minutes

A new study suggests running, every for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease – whether you plod along or go at race speed.

The Evidence: Researchers studied more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 19 and 100 over a 15-year period, looking at their overall health, whether they ran, and how long they lived.

  • Runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Runners on average lived 3 years longer than those who did not run.
  • When the data was broken down by age, sex, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol use, the benefits were the same. Even those with negative factors such as obesity, smoking, and diabetes benefit. For example, those who were obese and ran had a lower likelihood of death from heart problems (as compared to obese people who did not run). The same for smokers, diabetics, etc.
  • Speed and frequency did not make a huge difference. In fact, runners who ran less than an hour per week had the same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than 3 hours per week.

Researchers did find that consistency is important. Participants who ran consistently over a period of 6 years or more gained the most benefits, with a 29% lower risk of death for any reason, and a halving of the risk of death from heart disease or stroke. 

My Take: This study adds to a growing pile of studies linking physical activity to better (and longer) life. And, you don’t have to run: If you are able, after checking with your health care provider, aim for a minimum of the equivalent of a brisk walk for 150 minutes per week (for example, 30 minutes for five times per week). I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Reference: Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 64, Issue 5; 5 August 2014, Pages 482-484.

Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Dementia?

What You Need to Know: Exercise may help keep the brain robust among people who have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to an inspiring new study. Even moderate amounts of physical activity may help to slow the progression of one of the most dreaded diseases associated with aging.

Background: Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a gradual and then quickening loss of memory and cognitive functioning. All of us are vulnerable. But in recent years, scientists have found that individuals with a specific variant of a gene (known as the APOE epsilon4 allele or e4 gene for short) have a substantially increased risk of developing the disease. Brain imaging shows that a memory center (hippocampus) is considerably shrunken among those with Alzheimer’s disease. But, a previous study published in 2011 showed that exercise can slow progression among those with the e4 gene. What that study did not do, however, was look at brain structure.

The Evidence: Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio, USA) recruited almost 100 older men and women, ages 65 to 89, many of whom had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. At the study start, about have the population was found to carry the e4 gene. None showed signs of memory loss beyond what would be expected to be normal for their age.

  • Investigators asked the volunteers how often and intensely they exercised. About half didn’t move at all. But the other half walked, jogged, or otherwise exercised moderately a few times every week.
  • The researchers then did brain scans on the participants. Eighteen months later, they repeated the scan. In this short interval, those with the e4 gene who did not exercise had significant shrinkage of their hippocampus (memory center): It shrank by about 3%. Those who had the e4 gene and regularly exercised had no such shrinkage! Finally those without the e4 gene had little change in the hippocampus. 

My Take: Why not get up and move? I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Physical activity reduces hippocampal atrophy in elders at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Front Aging Neurosci 2014; 6: 61.

 

 

Cut Your Risk of Breast Cancer Now

women walking exercise

What You Need to Know: This could be the simplest bit of health advice ever: Exercise reduces women’s risk of breast cancer, no matter what kind of exercise they do, how old they are, how much they weigh, or when they get started.

The Study: Researchers in France looked at studies that involved more than 4 million women around the world who participated in prospective studies from 1987 to 2013. They found that the more active a woman is, the better her odds of avoiding breast cancer. Women who were most active, with more than an hour a day of vigorous activity, got the most benefits, lowering their cancer risk by 12 percent.

But women weren’t as active saw reduced risk, too, notes Mathieu Boniol, research director at the Strathclyde Institute for Global Public Health in Lyon, France. More activity was better, but anything was better than nothing. He presented the data Thursday at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Glasgow.

“This decrease is the same whatever the country, whatever the age, whatever the menopausal status,” Boniol told Shots. And it didn’t matter if women were active in work, activities of daily living, or sports. “It’s very good news.

Women who were overweight or obese benefited a little less, but still lowered their risk by 10 percent overall.

And women who got moving after menopause also saw benefits from exercise.

“It’s not something to say, ‘Oh, I’ve never done sports why do that right now?’ ” Boniol says. “We now have evidence that it could still be beneficial. And it’s cheap. It’s a very cheap way to do prevention of breast cancer.”

My Take: Scientists don’t know why physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. There’s been speculation about exercise’s effect on hormones and inflammation, but no one knows for sure. Other studies have found breast cancer risk reductions as high as 25 percent from physical activity, but because of the huge number of women included in this analysis, the 12 percent reduction may be more accurate. So, no matter where you live, your weight, or your age, keep moving. Keep moving. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/20/291894075/exercise-cuts-breast-cancer-risk-for-all-women-everywhere

Want To Stay Young? Start Moving.

women walking exercise

A new study finds that exercise among older adults helps ward off depressiondementia and other health problems, such as heart diseasecancer and diabetes. Exercise increased the odds of healthy aging as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it’s never too late to start: Even adults who don’t begin exercising until they’re older could increase their odds of healthy aging threefold, the researchers said.

“In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age,” said lead researcher Mark Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in England.

For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-’03 and 2010-’11. The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.

People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found. Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.

My Take: Want to stay healthy? Get moving. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: The report was published online Nov. 25 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Gardening Counts As Exercise

gardening senior woman vegetables white

A spot of DIY or gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack/stroke and prolong life by as much as 30 per cent among the 60+ age group, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. These routine activities are as good as exercise, which is ideal for older people who don’t often do that much formal exercise.

These are the conclusions of investigators who looked at almost 4000 sixty year olds in Stockholm, Sweden, subjects whose cardiovascular health was tracked for around 12.5 years.

Research: At the start of the study, participants took part in a health check, which included information on lifestyle, such as diet, smoking, and alcohol intake, and how physically active they were. They were asked how often they had included a range of daily life activities, such as gardening, DIY, car maintenance and blackberry picking over the previous 12 months, as well as whether they had taken any formal exercise. Their cardiovascular health was assessed by means of lab tests and physical examinations, to check on blood fats, blood sugars, and blood clotting factor, high levels of which are linked to a raised heart attack and stroke risk.

At the start of the study, those who had a generally active daily life had a much lower risk profile for cardiovascular problems, irrespective of how much formal exercise they took, than those with low levels of daily activity. This profile included smaller waists, lower levels of potentially harmful blood fats, and lower glucose, insulin, and clotting factor levels in men. The same was true of those who did a lot of formal exercise, but who weren’t routinely physically active very often. Those who exercised regularly and were also often physically active had the lowest risk profile of all.

During the 12.5 year monitoring period, 476 of the participants had their first heart attack and 383 died from various causes. The highest level of daily physical activity was associated with a 27% lower risk of a heart attack or stroke and a 30% reduced risk of death from all causes, compared with the lowest level, irrespective of how much regular formal exercise was taken in addition.

“Our findings are particularly important for older adults, because individuals in this age group tend, compared to other age groups, to spend a relatively greater proportion of their active day performing [routine activities] as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels,” say the authors.

They suggest that the biological explanations for their findings might lie in energy expenditure: prolonged sitting drives down metabolic rate to the bare minimum, while standing up and physical activity increase it. Muscular contractions may also provide some clues. Sitting down doesn’t require any muscle effort, which can disrupt the skeletal muscle’s normal hormone production, with potential adverse effects on other body organs and tissues.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter. Now get up and go!

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: E. Ekblom-Bak, B. Ekblom, M. Vikstrom, U. de Faire, M.-L. Hellenius. The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-092038