by John Stanton
There’s “snow” doubt about it—running and walking are healthy activities that can be enjoyed year-round. If you’re a runner who is recovering from injury or seeking an alternative to running during the winter months, consider walking. Walking is a gentle and safe option for many athletes, since the impact force is little more than the body weight you carry when standing upright. Here are some of the benefits.
Improved Fitness and Health
A regular routine of walking for 25 to 30 minutes at a time will boost your cardiovascular system and increase the efficiency of your heart and lungs. Among the positive side effects are lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. Increased muscular endurance is also a natural result of an exercise program (such as walking) that has repeated, low intensity actions. Moderate exercise has also been shown to stimulate the immune system, which is good news for cold and flu season.
Stronger Bones and Joints
Weight-bearing activities like walking help build bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In terms of impact on the joints, walking is gentler than running. Walkers land with a force equivalent to one to one-and-a-half times their body weight; in contrast, runners’ joints must absorb three to four times their body weight. Walking eases the stress on the body, thereby avoiding many of the injuries commonly associated with running.
When winter arrives, not everyone gets excited about dashing through the snow. Some runners dread going out in extremely cold temperatures or worry about slipping and falling on icy surfaces. If this is you, try taking more winter walks this year. The idea of going for a walk may feel less intimidating and will still help you maintain your cardiovascular fitness. You’ll benefit from the fresh air and maybe even catch a few snowflakes on your tongue.
A regular walking regimen can help burn fat and improve your muscle tone. Because muscle tissue is heavier than fat, your weight may not change, but you are likely to lose fat as you are gaining muscle. You will notice how toned your muscles have become, and you will look and feel like an athlete.
Walking, running and other physical activities naturally improve one’s confidence and self-esteem. You will soon feel strong and in control of both your athletic and personal goals. Leading an active life will help you manage stress and stay positive in the face of daily challenges.
If you’re training for a long distance running event like a spring marathon, incorporating walk breaks can be a great way to stay motivated, minimize injury and improve your recovery. In our Running Room training programs, we are big believers in 10:1 training—ten minutes of running, followed by a one-minute walk break, and repeat. By following a consistent run/walk pattern, we are able to greatly extend the distance we are able to cover on our long run. Taking a short walk break every 10 minutes helps stretch the legs, clear out the lactic acid and reduce the risk of injury.
Rather than sit at a coffee shop to catch up with a friend, why not get your beverages to go and take a walk around the block? The pace of walking allows for comfortable conversation that makes the time pass quickly. At your nearest Running Room location, the free Wednesday evening and Sunday
morning Run Clubs will almost certainly have a walking group. Ask the staff at your local store for more details.
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.