Really!?! Best Exercise for Your Heart Is...

...brisk walking, and not (necessarily) running.

It turns out, it is the distance you go, rather than the speed, that reaps the biggest health benefits, according to researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California and Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

And those benefits include reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

To be sure, running is a heart-healthy exercise, but this study showed that brisk walking will give the same benefit with a far lower incidence of injury.

"Both of these activities reduce risk factors, and if you expend the same amount of energy you get the same benefit," lead study author Paul Williams of Lawrence Berkeley told HealthDay News.

The study: Williams, along with Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital, collected six years of data on more than 33,000 runners and 16,000 walkers who were part of the National Runners' Health Study and the National Walkers' Health Study. While all were between the ages of 18 to 80 years old, most were in their 40s and 50s.

The results: Running and walking led to similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and perhaps even heart disease, reports HealthDay News.

  • Running reduced the risk of high blood pressure 4.2 percent, and walking reduced the risk 7.2 percent.
  • Running reduced the risk for high cholesterol 4.3 percent, and walking lowered the risk 7 percent.
  • Running lowered the risk for diabetes 12.1 percent, and walking reduced the risk 12.3 percent.
  • Running decreased the risk of heart disease 4.5 percent, and walking reduced the risk 9.3 percent.

The takeaway: The more you walk or run each week, the more your health will improve. While it was long thought that running was the best way to accomplish this, we now know that brisk walking will work just as well. The only catch is you must walk as far as the runners run to reap the same benefits.

The study findings were published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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