Walking may seem like more of a mode of transport than a form of exercise, but it really is one of the best things you can do for your body, your beauty and your long-term health. While you thought you were just getting from here to there, those steps were improving your cardiovascular strength, strengthening your muscles (which means more fat-burning power) and decreasing your chances of disease. And you can even find ways to walk while you work -- such as a walking meeting or a treadmill desk, which you may have caught me using last week on FOX8 in Cleveland. Walking is such good exercise that you ought to include it in your day as a way to get younger.
A May 2013 study by researchers in the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at data from 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers to compare the relative health benefits of each activity. From the outside it might seem like running -- which is considered a vigorous intensity exercise -- must be better for you than walking, a moderate form of exercise. But the results bore out differently, with walking taking a slight edge in the end. But there's a big if, so keep reading.
To be sure, both walking and running had positive effects. When the researchers checked in with participants six years after the start of the study, they found that running significantly reduced the risk of high blood pressure (by 4.2 percent), high cholesterol (4.3 percent), diabetes (12.1 percent) and cardiovascular heart disease (4.5 percent), for every MET h/d, which is a standard measure of metabolic energy expenditure. Great news, right? Well, it gets even better.
Participants who walked regularly saw even better results. Walking decreased risk by 7.2 percent for high blood pressure, 7 percent for high cholesterol, 12.3 percent for diabetes and 9.3 percent for cardiovascular heart disease. The more someone walked or ran, the greater the benefit.
[Read: How to Sit Less and Move More.]
Here's the if: The runners and walkers had to expend the same energy to get the same benefits. That means you'd have to walk longer than you'd have to run for the same effect.
If you're already jogging and sprinting to your heart's content, keep at it, as long as your joints are aligned and you protect them with strong muscles to act as shock absorbers -- and you wear great shoes! Yes, running is a great way to keep healthy, boost your mood and keep blood flowing for glowing skin. Not into it? No problem. Just keep working toward those 10,000 steps a day -- or more, if you can! Especially if you're just starting out or have never run before, walking is a great, low impact way to get into a fitness regimen without risking injury. Walking is easier on your hip and knee joints -- just to be sure, do lunges or squats twice a week. The RealAge benefit of 10,000 steps a day is feeling 4.6 years younger for women and 4.1 for men.
Two other interesting studies appeared in the last month. One suggests that a daily ounce of any nut leads to a 20 percent decrease in the all-cause mortality rate. That's the equivalent of 6,000 extra steps a day. My favorite is lightly toasted walnuts, since they're the only nut with omega-3 fatty acids. But you should keep piling the steps on, even if you're eating nuts. Meanwhile, another study found that people who get 900 milligrams of DHA omega-3 a day, whether from supplements or three 6-ounce portions of salmon a week, saw their blood pressure drop the same way it would as a result of 10,000 steps or quitting smoking.
How difficult is adding nuts and DHA -- and extra steps -- to your daily routine? Not very. The RealAge benefits of all three for a 55-year-old man or woman is about 7.5 years younger. Pretty easy to make yourself younger, eh?
So take all three actions: 10,000 steps, an ounce of nuts a day and 900 milligrams of DHA every day, no excuses. After all, every step you take is one step toward a fitter, more beautiful, healthier future.
An esteemed authority on health and wellness, Michael F. Roizen, MD, chairs the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic, the first such position at any major healthcare institution, where he actively coaches patients. He is a former editor of six medical journals and has published more than 175 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Board-certified in internal medicine and anesthesiology, Roizen co-founded with Mehmet Oz YouBeauty, a media company focused on helping women lead healthier, more beautiful lives, and RealAge. His RealAge series of books as well as his "YOU" series, written with Oz, are worldwide bestsellers, with four No. 1 bestsellers in the U.S. and No. 1 bestsellers in at least five other countries. Roizen and Oz write a daily syndicated column that appears in over 130 newspapers. Roizen has appeared regularly on Oprah, Today, 20/20 and Good Morning America and has a two-hour, 33-station radio show. He is 67 calendar years of age but his RealAge is 48.7 He routinely tweets the week's top medical stories @DrMike Roizen.