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Jog or Walk? Both Boost Your Health

Which is better for you, jogging or walking?

Nearly all studies show that jogging provides slightly more benefits for your bones, muscles, heart, and lungs. But walking has gained a lot of ground in the last decade or so as a viable exercise. It strengthens bones, tones muscles, and helps your cardiovascular system.

Walking is easier on the body's joints. It causes far fewer injuries to heels, shins, knees, and hips than jogging or stair climbing, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

And virtually everybody can walk.

Moreover, walking is linked to better physical functioning, even among older people who already suffer from chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. Both of these two groups call for getting at least 30 minutes of walking or a similar activity every day. This level of exercise burns at least 150 calories of energy.

For those of any age who can handle greater intensity and joint-pounding, however, jogging may be the way to go.

Burning fat

Many people wrongly believe that jogging burns more fat than walking.

It is true that the intensity of the exercise often decides what fuel source your body will use, according to the Human Performance Laboratory at Northeast Missouri State University. But the lab found that higher intensity exercises in a short time primarily burn carbohydrates. Fats are the main fuel for longer duration exercises. The longer the intensity is maintained at a steady state, the greater the amount of stored fat is used. If you are using exercise as part of a weight-loss plan, aim for longer duration, lower intensity exercise at least three days a week. Low-intensity exercises are less likely to cause injuries.

Although longer duration exercise burns more fat calories while you are doing it, higher intensity exercise will increase your resting metabolic rate. For those who do not have time for longer, less intense workouts, shorter, more intense workouts will provide the same benefits.

Bone strengthening

If you don't overtrain, jogging is better at strengthening bones than walking, but both activities add bone mass no matter what your age.

Walking, as well as dancing and light aerobics, can be almost as beneficial as running. And race-walking—5 mph with arms swinging—can strengthen arms, streamline legs, and burn 180 to 250 calories in a half-hour, almost as many calories as jogging.

Most studies show that jogging more than 25 or 30 miles a week will not add further benefit to bone mass. Researchers are not yet sure why. For women, overtraining may lead to the female athlete triad, a combination of eating disorders, halting of menstrual periods, and a weakening of the bones.

Pounding the body

A simple fact of physics has made jogging more dangerous than walking for the human body: Objects that fall farther and faster hit harder.

This fact can cause damage to heels, shins, knees, hips, and even the back for joggers and occasionally walkers, according to the NIH. This is true even when precautions are taken. But many joggers can go their entire lives without injury, as long they warm up properly, purchase good running shoes, and find fairly even surfaces to run on.

If you have osteoporosis or arthritis, talk with your doctor about the best exercise for you. You may need to limit yourself to walking.

If you have serious medical problems or are unsure of your level of fitness, check with your doctor before walking or jogging.