Running will keep your body younger than walking

Keep on running.
Keep on running.
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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Walking may be a good workout, but running helps active older people stay younger, a new study has found.

Senior citizens who run several times a week for exercise “expend about the same amount of energy walking as a typical 20-year-old,” according to research from the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University in California.

Typically, running slows down aging. Walkers, on the other hand, slow down with age. As the years pass, there is a natural decline in people’s aerobic capacity. But “old runners maintain their fuel economy,” Humboldt State professor Justus Ortega, who led the study, said in a news release about the findings.

Thirty active seniors, half women and half men, with an average age of 69, participated in the study. The group comprised an equal number of walkers and runners who exercised no less than three times a week for at least 30 minutes. Each participant’s oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production was measured at three different, increasing speeds on a specially equipped treadmill that captured biomechanics data based on how the participants’ feet hit the ground.

Runners demonstrated lesser consumption of energy than seniors who regularly walked for a workout. In fact, the 70-year-old runners were found to have the same walking efficiency as a typical sedentary college student. Meanwhile, the non-runners expended 22% more energy on walks compared with the millennial set. But walking, though it tends to decline with age, still is effective for combating heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.