A recent article in the The Atlantic pointed me towards a new study comparing the health benefits of running compared to walking. This six-year study followed the exercise habits of 18 to 80 year olds and gathered health information such as weight, blood pressure, diet, and any health problems during the course of the study. One might expect to see that Runners would have a significant improvement in overall health as compared to the Walkers, but the results turned out to be a bit more interesting.
By controlling for the distance and calories expended, they were able to see pretty similar results between the two groups. Both groups had a reduction in hypertension, diabetes, high-cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. The take home message? Whatever your exercise, be it walking or Running, you can get the same benefits if you put in the same amount of total work. The only difference really is that running gets it done with quicker. You burn more calories quicker, reducing the time needed to spend working out.
This study is actually pretty interesting to me for multiple reasons. The idea that you don't necessarily have to go all in on running to still get good health benefits is important. Running truly isn't for everyone, at least at first. Walking is a great gateway drug into aerobic fitness, and to see it provide great health benefits provided the necessary time is put into it. Additionally, it leads me to believe that any activity that gets you out and moving, be it biking, swimming, hiking, working in the garden . . . whatever your fancy is, these will all give you great health benefits if you put the time, and most importantly, the energy into it.
To illustrate workout normalization, I wanted to present a graph showing AFP points earned based on time for several popular activities at an average energy expenditure rate:
As you can see, different types of workouts really differ in the amount of energy expended. House cleaning for two hours is roughly equivalent to running for 30 minutes. Walking for an hour is about the same as running for 30 minutes. Keep it in mind when planning your workouts!
Looks like I really need to start swimming!