If walking is your main form of exercise, feel free to stay with it. Padding around is chock-full of benefits.
It might make sense to step it up, though.
“If walking no longer feels challenging and you are not seeing or feeling the results you desire, it may be time to add a little jogging or running,” says Shelly Mamo, an exercise specialist with Unum.
First, bear in mind that jogging and running put a lot more pressure on your joints than walking, “so it’s important to listen to your body and progress at a safe pace,” Mamo notes. If you don’t have joint problems in your lower body, try starting with a few minutes of jogging and gradually add to it. It also helps to run on a surface that can absorb some of the impact – a dirt trail as opposed to a concrete sidewalk, for example.
On the upside, running packs more benefits in shorter time. You’ll still get nearly all the pros of walking: improved sleep, mood and energy boosts, and decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to name a few. But running is especially good for a few other things.
1. Zap calories quickly.
If you want to lose weight, running is generally a better option – if you can stick with it. A 2013 study showed runners were better at keeping their weight down than walkers.
“While running, you are obviously using more energy and effort, so you burn calories at a faster rate,” Mamo says.
2. Strengthen your lungs.
Again, it’s all about pace.
“Running will improve your cardiovascular abilities more than walking because you are challenging your lungs and muscles more intensely,” Mamo says.
3. Decrease appetite.
Several studies have shown that intense exercise does more to blunt the urge to eat than moderate exercise does. One recent study showed that running did a better job than walking of keeping women from wanting to eat. In general, the suppression has to do with the way strenuous exercise affects hormones related to hunger.
Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. She was a senior editor for Yoga Journal and still does research for the magazine on wellness, fitness and nutrition. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.