is one of the most effective types of exercise for those trying to shed some weight and achieve fitness goals. It helps people maintain a proper weight, which is vital to preventing pain from developing in the hips and knees.
Runners are less likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that can lead to hip- or knee-replacement surgery. A recent study involving active, older people found that running reverses aging to a greater degree than walking, the New York Times reported in its “Well” blog.
Walking is worthwhile, the newspaper noted, because it lowers the risk of obesity, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. People who take daily walks also tend to live longer. But researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., found evidence that running is better.
They assessed 30 men and women in their mid- to late-60s or early 70s. Fifteen of the study participants walked at least three times a week for 30 minutes or longer. The others ran three or more times per week for the same amount of time. The volunteers walked or jogged on biomechanics-measuring treadmills at the University of Colorado’s Locomotion Laboratory. They wore masks that recorded their oxygen consumption and other data.
The scientists determined that the runners exerted less energy to move at the same pace as the walkers. They also found that 70-year-old runners walked as efficiently as the average college student.
“Older walkers, on the other hand, had about the same walking economy as people of the same age who were sedentary,” the Times reported. “In effect, walking did not prevent people from losing their ability to walk with ease.”
The biomechanics of the runners and walkers were about the same. Runners and regular walkers took a similar number of steps, with comparable strides, while walking.
Justus Ortega, an associate professor of kinesiology at Humboldt University who led the study, said intense aerobic exercise like running increases muscle cells’ mitochondria. That gives the cells more energy, permitting people to exercise longer and move more easily. Runners’ muscles might be more coordinated than those of walkers because their form of exercise entails the contraction of fewer muscles, so less energy is required.
The study concluded that runners experience less severe declines in walking ability as they age. Ortega noted that people who find it easy to exercise, without pain, are more physically active than others. He said it’s never too late to start, pointing out that “quite a few of our volunteers hadn’t taken up running until they were in their 60s.”
Running makes the heart work harder, which promotes blood circulation. It is considered an aerobic, as well as cardio, exercise because it results in additional oxygen being pumped into the muscles. Running also increases enzymes and hormones that stimulate muscles and the heart.
Multiple studies have shown that the odds of suffering heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers are reduced when a person runs regularly. The activity boosts the body’s immune-response system, builds muscle mass, improves bone density and fights inflammation.
Failing to get the kind of exercise that running involves puts people in danger of becoming overweight. That results in excessive strain on their hips and knees, which causes long-term deterioriation of cartilage that cushions the joints’ bones and tissues.
This condition, osteoarthritis, gets worse with age. It is one of the leading reasons that older adults become disabled. In some cases, patients must get hip or knee replacements to relieve pain and regain mobility.
If you are experiencing joint pain, it is necessary to identify the cause of the discomfort to determine the appropriate treatment or surgery. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation by the nationally renowned sports medicine surgeons at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to learn about your options.