Ask The Doctor

The Best Form of Exercise Is Walking

Dear Dr Garner,
I am a 72-year-old woman, who is in good shape and likes to exercise every day.
The problem is, that my knees and hips start to hurt when I jog (got bad rheumatism). I have no problem walking, but cannot jog without feeling a lot of pain.
My friend tells me that walking is just not that good to stay in shape and that it is no good even for weight loss.
My question to you is whether walking is a waste of time, or something that I should be doing as part of my daily fitness program.
Jogging or Walking dilemma in Williamsburg

Dear Jogging,
I am frequently asked this question. There is a common misconception that walking is an inferior form of exercise compared to jogging.
In many people’s mind, including mine, it turns out that not only is there nothing wrong with walking, but when all things are considered it is actually superior to jogging as an exercise regimen.
It is important to understand the goal of your exercise program to evaluate what is the best form of workout for you.
Obviously, if you are training for the marathon, walking would not be the best choice, but if you want to keep your body toned, avoid heart problems, keep up good mental health, and generally stay in good shape, the answer is different.
Jogging or walking is not a great way to lose weight.
Study after study shows that the best way to lose weight is to eat less.
While you may be able to lose some calories while jogging or walking, a person’s appetite is actually stimulated by the workout, and the jogger or walker tends to eat more afterwards losing much of the caloric benefit.
It is true that you can lose more calories jogging than running, but not that much more, particularly if you are walking up a slight incline. In addition, the appetite is stimulated more after jogging than walking which further reduces the weight loss benefits of jogging.
The overwhelming advantage of walking instead of jogging is that you are far less likely to have an injury.
Jogging presents hazards to your hips, knees, and ankles, particularly if you already have some arthritis, which seems to be the case in your situation.
It is important to talk with your doctor regarding your decision to walk or jog, particularly if you are over 50, or have underlying heart disease. Starting to jog suddenly may be too much of a strain on your heart and your doctor may have you walk instead.
Some studies show that jogging may provide the same exercise benefit of walking in half the time, but newer research shows that prolonged exercise is most useful to good health, particularly the heart and your blood vessels.
Walking can strengthen bones, tone muscles, and help the cardiovascular system, to the same extent as jogging and with less risk to the other parts of the body.
Both jogging and walking add bone mass and help to prevent osteoporosis.
Studies show that jogging more than 25 miles a week, however, does not add further benefit in preventing or treating osteoporosis.
The pounding of the foot on the pavement or grass while running causes damage to heels, shins, knees, hips, and even the back.
Walking has been shown to be better for the spine than jogging, as it puts less stress on the discs with less likelihood of disc herniation.
Walking is better for the feet than jogging, as there is much less chance of experiencing stress injuries.
To get the most out of walking, make sure your posture is good, with maximum benefit derived from “walking tall”, holding your stomach muscles in, and ribcage up.
It is recommended that we should exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days per week.
The good thing is that the walking can be divided into smaller periods, with exercise throughout the day from common situations such as walking up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator, or getting off the bus a stop early to get extra walking in.
This may not seem like a lot of exercise, but it adds up in the course of a year.
In summary, jogging and walking both provide good exercise. Both improve our quality of life and make us feel better throughout the day.
I believe that when risks and benefits of both are considered, that walking is best for our health.
Be consistent, and get at least 30 minutes of walking in each day.
You will be more likely to continue your workouts and less likely to suffer serious injury to your body.
To boost the health benefits of walking, try adding an incline to your course.  It does not have to be very steep, but about 10 degrees can do wonders with your exercise program.
I hope that this helps to settle your dilemma, and that you forge ahead with a daily exercise program made up of the simplest and best form of exercise — walking.[hr] Dr. Steven Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on The NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 97 Time Warner and Channel 30 Cablevision.