Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walkers, Not Runners, Win the Race!

       Do you remember the children’s story of the Rabbit versus the Turtle?  Who won?  The turtle isn’t it?

           In a race, the turtle will win!

         I know that’s a different story and that makes the previous statement controversial. But before my marathoner friends and readers howl in protest, I’d like to inform you that I’m talking as an orthopedic surgeon (with subspecialty training in hip and knee reconstruction) giving advice to previously sedentary people.  Yes, previously sedentary people who may not be as fit like you.

       So, let me begin by saying that to jumpstart a journey to a healthier lifestyle, I believe that walking -- a sport that doesn't require athleticism or expensive equipment -- is enough. Any person in any age group can’t go wrong with walking. 

What are the advantages of walking over running?

 1.      Walking and running are both effective aerobic exercises (activities that burn calories and improve your overall fitness level by moving large muscle groups for a sustained period). However, running is considered a vigorous exercise, while walking is a mild to moderate exercise. With running, each time your foot strikes the ground, the impact causes trauma to the weight bearing joints, especially the knees. Walking briskly causes impact as well. However, the impact is much less.

2.      While both activities can leave you sore at first, running is a higher intensity and impact type of exercise, thus, runners are generally more prone to injuries than walkers, especially if they don't stretch and warm up. I’ve seen more shin splints more frequently now than before because of the popularity of running nowadays. They can crop up if you overdo your running workout or wear shoes that don't give proper support. So make sure you are using a sturdy, stable pair of shoes.

3.    Walking works better if you're beginning an exercise program or are severely out of shape. (Yes, I know that round is a shape. I know that joke).  You can always gradually work up to a run.

So, is walking enough?

        The reason I say walkers, not runners win the race, is because walking is much more equal-opportunity when it comes to different fitness levels. Both of them can be beneficial. But if you are deciding whether running or walking should be part of your fitness regimen, the very first thing to consider is your fitness level, and how much impact your joints can absorb.

       Ask yourself: How much weight are you carrying? 

       Look at the mirror.  Do you think you had taken too much food in your life? :)

     Reports say that every extra pound you carry adds up to 3 pounds of pressure on your knee joints when you walk, and 10 pounds more when you run. In fact, obesity is one of the biggest risk factor for developing osteoarthritis because it speeds the breakdown of cartilage or the shock absorber in your joints. Losing extra weight -- particularly body fat -- may be the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of developing a serious knee problem. In a study reviewed by the National Institutes of Health in the US, overweight people who lost an average of 11 pounds had their risk of osteoarthritis decreased by 50%.

      Friends, we put an enormous amount of mechanical stress on our knees on a daily basis. And, typically, the knee is bound to take it, being a weight-bearing joint. Certain bad habits could be shortening the life of your knees and opening the door to chronic pain and disability.


        Running and walking are good sources of aerobic exercise. But running, compared to walking, requires a higher fitness level to begin with due to its higher intensity. Although walking is a slower and a more boring way to get fit, it can also be a lot more comfortable if you suffer from a number of conditions or are new to exercise. The best exercise is the one that matches your fitness level and is enjoyable enough for you to stick with it. A big mistake most people make is doing too much too soon when it comes to running. Starting slowly will condition the joints and the different systems of the body to acclimatize to more aggressive workouts in the future, while avoiding common injuries, especially to your knees.

             As for me, do I walk or run a marathon?  Obviously, I follow my own advice.   I do walking, not running.  I also bike (that would be another post topic) and lift some light weights. I also do stretching exercises in front of the bathroom mirror and do some poses ala Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior (If you don’t know them, you’re not my age). J

“You don’t have to be a jogger or a marathon runner; all you have to do is move” — Dr. Paul Bendheim, author of “The Brain Training Revolution”
Walk, run, bike, swim.  It’s up to you.  As long as you move!

By the way, there is a diet/fitness "level-up" website with app created by a dear reader Ms Christine Chu. If you want to check it out, or use it, it's at It may motivate you to stick to your fitness/ weight loss goals.  Goodluck!

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