For author and scientist Katy Bowman, walking is a biological imperative like eating. In her book, “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement," she suggests there are movement nutrients, just like dietary nutrients, that the body needs. “Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human,” said Bowman, a biomechanist based in Ventura, California. “It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise.”
Leslie Sansone, creator of the “Walk at Home: Mix & Match Walk Blasters” DVD, said too many people believe that spending grueling hours at the gym is the only way to fitness. “There’s this “Biggest Loser” idea out there that if you’re not throwing up and crying you’re not getting fit,” she said, referring to the popular television weight-loss show. Three miles (5 kilometers) per hour is a good beginning, gradually working to 4 miles per hour, she said about walking.
Dr. Carol Ewing Garber, president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a professor of movement sciences at Columbia University in New York, said research suggests that even one bout of exercise causes beneficial physiological effects. But she concedes that walking does not do everything. It is less beneficial for bones than running, and for strength, it is better to lift weights. “Still,” she said, “If you’re going to pick one thing, research says it should be walking.”
CMDA Member Mark McQuain, MD: “In her book, Katy Bowman makes the case that the natural movement of humans, namely walking, is the ‘superstar of exercise,’ adding that it is ‘easier to get movement than it is to get exercise.’ The above Reuters article sources additional experts in support of her thesis. Given our struggle with an epidemic of obesity,1 whether secondary to poor diet choices and/or sedentary lifestyles, we would like an easy way back to health. Is walking our panacea? That answer really depends on whether our walking is ‘just movement’ or ‘superstar exercise.’
“A large study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory2 found moderate (walking) and vigorous (running) exercise produced similar reductions in hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus and possibly CHD, but only with equivalent energy expenditure. That means you have to walk further than you ran for similar benefits. Not exactly ‘just movement.’
“We know lack of movement, as is seen in spinal cord injury, produces increased risks of DVT and osteoporosis,3 and improved motion mitigates some of these risks, even improving psychological well-being.4 The Reuters article references a similar study in able-bodied subjects showing the benefits of minimal movement (three five-minute walks) reversing the harmful effects of prolonged sitting on arteries in the legs.
“Whether movement or exercise, the benefits of walking depend on the type of walking you do.”
1Hicks, A L, et al. "Long-term exercise training in persons with spinal cord injury: effects on strength, arm ergometry performance and psychological well-being." Spinal Cord 41 (2003): 34-43.
2Jiang, S D, L Y Dai, and L S Jiang. "Osteoporosis after spinal cord injury." Osteoporosis International 17, no. 2 (Feb 2006): 180-92.
3Wang, Youfa, and Mary Beydoun. "The Obesity Epidemic in the United States—Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis." Epidemiologic Reviews (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) 29, no. 1 (Jan 2007): 6-28.
4 Williams, P T, and P D Thompson. "Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction." Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis and vascular biology 33, no. 5 (May 2013): 1085-91.
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