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.

Yoga May Reduce Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease

What You Need to Know: Following a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, investigators from the Netherlands and USA have found that yoga may provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as such traditional physical activities as biking or brisk walking.
 
Background: Yoga, an ancient mind-body practice which originated in India and incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual elements, has been shown in several studies to be effective in improving cardiovascular risk factors, with reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
 

There is “promising evidence” that the popular mind-body practice of yoga is beneficial in managing and improving the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and is a “potentially effective therapy” for cardiovascular health. Indeed, following a systematic review of 37 randomised controlled trials (which included 2768 subjects), investigators from the Netherlands and USA have found that yoga may provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as such traditional physical activities as biking or brisk walking.

“This finding is significant,” they note, “as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.” Their study is published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Results showed first that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise, and second, that yoga had an effect on these risks comparable to exercise.

  • When compared to no exercise, yoga was associated with significant improvement in each of the primary outcome risk factors measured: body mass index was reduced by 0.77 kg/m2 (measured as a “mean difference”), systolic blood pressure reduced by.21 mm Hg, low-density (bad) lipoprotein cholesterol reduced by 12.14 mg/dl, and high-density (good) lipoprotein cholesterol increased by 3.20 mg/dl. There were also significant changes seen in secondary endpoints — body weight fell by 2.32 kg, diastolic blood pressure by 4.9 mm Hg, total cholesterol by 18.48 mg/dl, and heart rate by.27 beats/min. However, no improvements were found in parameters of diabetes (fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin).
  • Risk factor improvements (in BMI, blood pressure, lipid levels) were significant when yoga was used in addition to medication. Among patients with existing coronary heart disease, yoga provided a statistically significant benefit in lowering LDL cholesterol when added to medication (statins and lipid-lowering drugs).
  • In comparisons with exercise itself, yoga was found to have comparable effects on risk factors as aerobic exercise. The investigators note that this might be because of yoga’s impact on stress reduction, “leading to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status, metabolic and cardio-vagal function.”

The similarity of yoga and exercise’s effect on cardiovascular risk factors, say the investigators, “suggest that there could be comparable working mechanisms, with some possible physiological aerobic benefits occurring with yoga practice, and some stress-reducing, relaxation effect occurring with aerobic exercise.”

Commenting on the results, senior author Professor Myriam Hunink from Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, said that, although the evidence of yoga’s beneficial effect in cardiovascular health is growing, a physiological explanation for this effect remains unclear. “Also unclear,” she added, “are the dose-response relationship and the relative costs and benefits of yoga when compared to exercise or medication. However, these results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice.”

Moreover, in view of yoga’s ease of uptake, the investigators also note that evidence supports yoga’s acceptability to “patients with lower physical tolerance like those with pre-existing cardiac conditions, the elderly, or those with musculoskeletal or joint pain.” Thus, they conclude that “yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.”

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.

 

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Society of Cardiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Chu, R. A. Gotink, G. Y. Yeh, S. J. Goldie, M. M. Hunink. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/2047487314562741

European Society of Cardiology. “Yoga has potential to reduce risk factors of cardiovascular disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141215203049.htm.

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