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I must admit it. I run funny. Not like “ha ha,” “tell me a joke” funny, but more like I look kind of weird when I run.

My unique style probably invokes a few “ha ha’s” for people who are watching, but they are polite…most of the time. You see, I was 55 when I started running. Not a spring chicken, but a bigtime fraidy cat chicken when it comes to going fast. I’m always afraid that I’m going to fall, so I keep my feet close to the ground.

But I do have long legs which make me a mighty fast walker. So, I always wonder whether I should be working at getting faster or perfecting my form as a speed walker.

Actually, running and walking are both great forms of exercise. If you do either one you are going to have a healthier heart, stronger bones and most likely lower body weight than those who spend most of their time doing nothing. Currently, the Department of Health recommends at least 160 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of vigorous exercise weekly.

So does it matter whether you get the minutes by walking or running? Arguments for each one can be made, but which one is best for you depends on your fitness goals and your current fitness level.

Goal 1: Burn Fat & And Lose Weight

If you walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes you will burn roughly 160 calories. If you run for 30 minutes you will at least double that. Running is just more demanding on the body. But if you have the time, as far a calorie burn, walking for a longer period of time will give you the same benefit. But remember, if your goal is to lose weight, without some sort of caloric restriction with your diet, it’s not going to happen.

Goal 2: Have a Healthy Heart

It makes sense that running is going to make your heart work harder. Studies have shown that runners’ risk of heart disease is generally 4.5% lower than inactive people. But walkers who expend the same amount of energy as runners daily (burning the same amount of calories) had a risk level of 9% lower than inactive folks. So again, if you have the time, it really doesn’t matter whether you walk or run for a healthy heart.

Goal 3: Getting Rid of Belly Fat

I come from a long line of “kangaroo” women. We all have that unsightly pooch in the middle that we would love to be rid of. Definitely, picking up the pace is going to help with this.

I do HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). This is a workout where you alternate short bursts of high intensity moves with easier bouts of movement. I’ve been doing this since day one. I have a running app that rings a bell to tell me when to switch the pace. When I’m on the treadmill at the gym I do it by heartrate. I hold the little silver handles and watch my heartrate climb, and then when I reach my peak heartrate, I slow the pace down.

Goal 4: Keeping Joints Healthy

It’s hard to keep your joints in good shape if you are constantly pounding the pavement. I learned this by way of a puny knee. Although there have been studies that show that running does not cause joint arthritis, many people who start out running do too much too quickly, which can lead to injury. This is what happened to me. My heart, and even my head kept telling me that I was a fearless, running goddess, and my knee suffered because of it.

So, Should You Walk of Run?

The bottom line is that ANY kind of exercise is beneficial provided you stick with it. When it’s too cold outside, move it in to the gym. If it’s too hot outside, plan your run/walks early in the morning, or move them to an indoor treadmill. The best exercise is the one you are doing…right now!

No matter how fast you go or how “funny” you look, keep moving Onward through the fog, Wimpy Girl!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.



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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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