A look at the pros and cons of running and walking as a form of exercise. Including injury types and strategies to prevent acute or chronic injuries.
If we think of exercise we think of running. We visualize a lovely spring morning, a lovely lady jogging through a picturesque setting of green hills - she is at peace. Okay, maybe that’s only me. And that might have been an old advertisement I saw once. Regardless, running and by extension walking is probably the most common, most prescribed form of exercise.
But why is that? Because running, in theory, is simple and easy to implement. You don’t need any fancy equipment barring some good running shoes and maybe a groovy playlist on your mobile music player, and off you go on your merry way. Now, anyone who has done some serious running in their lives before will tell you that it is not that easy nor that simple. In fact, running and walking when done correctly, can be quite challenging - far from the picturesque setting ad executives want you to believe it is.
Running Vs Walking: Which One is Right For You?
Okay, so you’ve got your inspiration. You’ve decided that this coming Monday you’re going to hit the road and start running. As amazing as your decision might be, I implore you to pull on the brakes for a second. Please take 10 minutes and study this article in its entirety, it might be the difference between you becoming the next big fun run champion and ending up with a serious injury.
There are a few things that will determine whether you should hit the ground running or whether you need to take a step back and give walking a try.
It may seem that I am making quite a big fuss, but this is serious. There are real risks involved when making this decision. So if you have a decent level of fitness and conditioning coupled with some experience; go ahead and start with a short run. If you’re unsure or lacking in one or more of these areas, it might be best that you start off with walking. With the aim of hitting the road running… Eventually.
The Real Benefits of Running and Walking
Whether you start off walking or get straight to running things as you see fit, the benefits have significant overlap and are quite extensive. This our list of benefits you could be gaining from if you were to start walking or running consistently:
Some Say Walking Might be the Secret Hack to Living Longer
Walking gets such a bad rap, it’s not as exciting or sexy as running or cycling. People look at walking as if it can’t possibly be a good workout. I beg to differ. Fun fact, walking as an exercise is far more superior to the average guy or girl than running will ever be. Crazy statement? Let me back my statement up by using myself as an example.
A while ago I got the dreaded VID’, and man did it hit me hard. So hard in fact, that I ended up with permanent lung damage. Naturally as the months of recovery came to an end, I needed to adjust my training program. Gone were the days of crazy sprints or 10km fun runs. I had to find another way to get my cardio done. And that’s where walking kind of saved my life. My doctor told me, after a very frustrating rant, that I should just go for walks. And so I did, and honestly it changed my outlook on training. If you can get passed the “boring” aspect of walking, you can unlock a host of benefits:
So why would you walk? Burning calories, protecting your joints and improving your mental and cardiac health, it is a no-brainer. Why do you think everyone is so obsessed with tracking their steps and stuff, because it is an easy, safe and cost effective alternative to all forms of cardio. And I am a living walking testament to that statement. So put on your favorite playlist, or that creepy serial killer podcast you love so much, set aside 30 minutes and go for a walk. It will change your life by prolonging your life, trust me.
The Truth Behind Walking and Running, the Flipside to the Coin!
Okay, we’ve covered all the reasons why running and walking are such amazing exercise modalities. But like everything in life, they too have their downsides. And the biggest downside to running and walking is and always will be those darn injuries!
Because most, if not all the injuries are interchangeable. We’re just going to refer to them as running injuries from here on out.
Chronic vs Acute Running Injuries
Before we start listing injuries, discussing their characteristics and presentations we should take a slight tangent and go ahead and define what types of injuries we develop as runners.
This gets broken down into acute injuries and chronic injuries.
An acute injury is a condition that has a rapid or immediate onset. In layman’s terms, you’re not injured one moment, and the next moment boom, injured! Okay, that might be an oversimplification but in essence an acute injury is when you suddenly get injured without any prior symptoms or warning signs.
On the other hand, some injuries happen progressively over a longer period of time. They start off as small niggly aches and pains and slowly develop into full blown symptomatic injuries that keep us off our feet
Causes of Chronic Vs Acute Injuries
Acute injuries are actually quite straightforward, they occur when the load you're placing on your body exceeds what your body can handle. This can be due to fatigue, muscular imbalances and the rapid introduction of new stimuli.
Chronic injuries on the other hand aren’t that straightforward as they usually occur over a long period of time caused and compounded by one of many underlying causes. For example, your VMO (vastus medialis oblique) muscle is under-active leading to the brunt of force passing through your lower limb to be placed on the patella. The patella in essence has to carry the slack that VMO isn’t carrying; over time this gets worse as the patella tendon becomes overworked. And just like that you have developed ‘runners’ knees’. An overuse injury caused by an under active VMO.
But why does this happen? Well, in this case a VMO can be under-active due to muscular imbalances in the quadriceps group, poor pelvic stability or leg length discrepancies. So as you can see, chronic injuries can be caused by a myriad of conditions or issues.
Our Final Thoughts…
As you can see both running and walking have their pros’ and cons. Both carry risk for injury as well as having significant upside with regards to health benefits. That being said, knowing when running or walking is right for you and your specific condition is vitally important in an effort to avoid the cons and maximize the benefits of running and walking.