FRIDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Need to lose weight? Running
will help more than walking, according to new research.
And to keep off those lost pounds, continue running, suggests
Paul Williams, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory in California, who compared weight loss and weight
control in thousands of runners and walkers over six years.
The same amount of exercise in adults with a body mass index
over 28 (deemed overweight) resulted in 90 percent greater weight
loss for runners compared to walkers, he found.
"Running is more effective than walking in preventing weight gain and achieving weight loss," he said. Both groups shed pounds, but the runners lost more, Williams found.
That doesn't mean vigorous exercise is all you need to do to
lose weight. "You do have to add dieting," he said. "Exercise is
not by itself the most effective way."
More than one-third of adults in the United States are obese,
putting them at risk of serious health risks such as diabetes and
For the new study, published in the April issue of
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Williams
evaluated changes in body mass index (BMI) of more than 32,000
runners and more than 15,000 walkers. (BMI is a calculation of body
fat based on height and weight). All enrolled between 1998 and
Participants reported their height and weight for the preceding
five years. They also supplied their waist size and information on
their workouts, including miles run or walked, the frequency, pace,
and any other exercise they did.
Williams found some differences between runners and walkers. The
walkers were older on average than the runners -- 53 compared to 41
years, respectively, for women; among men, 62 versus 48 years.
At the start, the runners also had a lower BMI. Male runners'
average BMI was 24; women's was 22. Male walkers' average BMI was
27; women's, 25. A BMI of 25 is the low end of overweight.
The walkers were also more likely to smoke but more likely to
eat fruit, the study found.
After the six-year follow-up, both groups lost weight. But the
male runners and the heavier female runners had better results.
"An overweight woman of average height and a BMI over 28 might expect to lose 19 pounds by adding a 3.2-mile run to her daily routine, but only 9 pounds by expending the same amount of energy by walking," Williams said. That total weight loss occurs gradually, but effects are seen from the start.
Running also takes less time to produce the same amount of
effort, Williams said. For instance, that same woman would need to
walk 4.6 miles at a brisk pace to expend the effort of running 3.2
miles. The run would take about 40 minutes; the walk about an hour
and 20 minutes, he said.
One reason that running produces more weight loss is metabolic.
"If you exercise vigorously like running, your metabolic rate
remains elevated after the exercise," Williams said. "For walkers,
much less so."
It's also been shown that vigorous exercisers who overeat are
good at compensating later, he said. "If runners overeat one day,
they make up for it the next," he said.
Williams decided to study running and walking because "runners
and walkers think about how much they are doing by how far they
go," he said. Gym rats, on the other hand, are less accurate about
reporting their exercise time, he said.
The findings are no surprise, said Dr. Tim Church, director of
preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research
Center, Baton Rouge, who was not involved in the study.
But Church said running itself shouldn't get all the credit for
the weight control. "People who are running are more focused on
other weight issues," Church said. "I guarantee you, the runners
are way more focused on their diet than the walkers."
And that's a good thing, he said. "If you are concerned about
weight, you probably need to focus on [both] diet and physical
activity," he explained.
People can exercise vigorously without having to jog or run, he
added. Other forms of aerobic exercise, such as swimming or
cycling, can be done vigorously.
Not everyone wants to run, Williams agreed. And moderate
exercise, such as slower walking, is still beneficial, he said.
"The exercise you do is better than the exercise you don't do," Williams said. "We show weight loss benefit with walking; the benefits just aren't as great as with running."
But walking is just as good as running for reducing heart
disease risk factors, including high cholesterol, blood pressure
and blood sugar levels, according to a different study that
analyzed the same walkers' and runners' data. That study was
published online April 4 in the journal
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
For information on out-running middle-aged weight gain, see the
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
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