For many years, the general rule of thumb for calories burned when walking or running has been 1 mile equals approximately 100 calories. However, recent research indicates it is not really that simple, and, in what can be heralded as great news for walking enthusiasts, we now know that walking (fast) may actually burn more calories than running (slow). How can it be when walking seems to be so much easier than running, that it could potentially burn more calories?

To fully understand this phenomenon we must think about how truly different the walking stride is from the running stride. With walking, your legs stay relatively straight and your center of gravity is essentially directly over the top of your two legs. There is not a lot of up and down motion. However, with the running stride, one literally jumps from one foot to the next. This creates what is known as the ight phase during the running stride (a period of time when neither foot is in contact with the ground).

This ight phase literally propels you forward, which is good, but it results in the center of gravity moving up with "takeoff" and down with "landing." The constant rise and fall of our weight requires a lot of energy, and therefore a lot of calories are burned when running-when running fast, that is. With slow running, approximately a 12-minute per mile pace or slower, one loses almost all of the ight phase.

So, here is the key. Your stride loses certain running efficiencies, if you will, when you walk. Your body loses the benet of the ight phase. In essence, walking at the same 12-minute per mile pace (a very fast walking pace) becomes more difcult than running at the same pace. From a calorie burning perspective it is better to walk fast, due to the loss of that running efciency, the ight phase.
An even greater benet of walking, compared with running, is the greatly reduced strain on ankle, knee and hip joints compared with running. With no ight phase during walking, even fast walking, there is little pounding of the joints.

The key to increased calorie burn and saving the joint impact is to get out there and walk. Fast.

Walk for brain health

Recently there has been an increase in the number of recommendations for maintaining cognitive function as we age. Most often, the suggestions include doing sudoku, crossword puzzles, or some other mentally challenging and thought-provoking puzzle. In the United States, consumers will spend $80 million this year on brain "exercise" products, up from $2 million in 2005.

For people with unchallenging work, having mentally challenging hobbies, like learning a new language or playing bridge, can help maintain cognitive performance. However, thinking that any single brain exercise challenge begun late in life can act as a quick x for a general age-related decline in mental function is false, and there is no research to support such claims.
One form of training, however, has been shown to maintain and improve brain health. Physical exercise. In most studies analyzed, the most effective training program was 30 to 60 minutes of fast walking several times a week. Walking improves what scientists call "executive function," the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior appropriate to the situation and focus on your task rather than distractions.

Executive function starts to decline when people reach their 70s. A recent analysis of 18 different studies concluded that older adults who have been active most of their lives have much better executive function than sedentary people of the same age. When inactive people get more exercise, even starting in their 70s, their executive function improves.

Exercise is also strongly associated with a reduced risk of dementia late in life. Further, people who walk regularly throughout middle age are one-third as likely to get Alzheimer's disease in their 70s as those who did not exercise. Research indicates even people who begin exercising in their 60s have their risk reduced by almost half.

How might walking help maintain brain function? Walking slows the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex portion of the brain, which is important for executive function. Walking may also help the brain by improving cardiovascular health, preventing heart attacks and strokes that can cause brain damage.

So, instead of buying the latest puzzle book, you are better off to do your brain (not to mention your body) some good by going out for a brisk walk.

First seen in Walk Magazine. Visit