Walking and Cardiovascular Health
A study reported in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (2008; 18: 736-741)investigated the independent effect of walking on two markers of cardiovascular health. The researchers are M. Hamer and A. Steptoe, both from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.
It has been suggested that walking may have unique positive effects on inflammation and hemostasis, both markers of cardiovascular health. Inflammation is a central factor in atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries; see http://www.cbass.com/Inflammation.htm . Hemostasis refers to blood thickness (flow/sluggishness) and is also an important factor in atherosclerosis. With both markers, less is better.
The aim of the Hamer-Steptoe study was to examine the impact of walking on inflammation and hemostasis, separate and apart from vigorous physical activity.
The researchers recruited 185 healthy volunteers, 107 men and 78 women, age 45 to 59. The participants were asked how many minutes they walk each week and how often they engage in vigorous activities, such as running, that makes them feel out of breath. The researchers also took blood samples and analyzed them for markers of inflammation and hemostasis.
Walking 30 minutes or more a day was found to be significantly associated with lower inflammation and hemostatic markers. Vigorous activity was associated with lower levels of hemostatic markers, but not lower inflammatory markers.
Walking appeared to lowered both markers, with the positive effect on inflammation being unique. Walking lowered inflammation, but vigorous exercise did not. Both walking and vigorous exercise improve blood flow.
Assuming that the association is causal, the researcher estimated that “meaningful reductions in levels of hemostatic and inflammatory markers could be achieved by walking 30 min/day.”
They concluded that “regular walking is associated with lower levels of hemostatic and inflammatory markers, independent of vigorous physical activity.” In other words, walking does the job with or without vigorous exercise. We know, of course, that intervals and other forms of vigorous exercise have many other benefits; see Short, Hard Intervals Improve Insulin Action.
(Vigorous exercise increases inflammation, at least temporarily. As explained in my book Challenge Yourself, inflammation is part of the normal healing process. Walking, it would seem, helps to moderate the inflammation caused by vigorous exercise. The two forms of exercise apparently complement one another. They might even be termed a dynamic duo.)
Bottom line: Those who engage in vigorous exercise–especially those who train only once a week–would be well advised to walk or engage in some other form of moderate physical activities on most intervening days. I’m going to keep walking or staying active in other ways between workouts. I’m also going to make it a point to get up and move around periodically when working at my desk or the computer.
No wonder having a dog helps us – not only emotionally but all the walking!
So much of the conventional wisdom is now looking wrong.
Activity is the key not exercise as we know it. All the food advice is wrong too. Fat does not make you fat – Grains do.
I was in Toronto last week and broke my diet. I had 2 Pizzas – I just could not resist. I also had a beef pie at a dinner – I don’t want to be the guest who fusses.
The result – I felt like I was going to die and I put back 6 pounds in 5 days!
Back on track now – lost 2 pounds in 2 days – it’s the grains folks. If you have not been off them – you don’t know the difference and canot feel the change.
But of course all the money is in selling you grains