Run, run, run as fast as you can. You’ll never catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.
That line from the children’s book, The Gingerbread Man, came to mind recently when I was reading about a study that found running enhances the ability of older adults to do everyday activities.
Researchers at The University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in California recruited 30 older adults for their study. Half walked three times a week and the other half ran three times a week. Later they were tested on their “economy” of walking, that is, how much energy was required to walk.
Results showed that the runners used less energy to walk at the same pace as the walkers-only in the study. That doesn’t seem too surprising, but the researchers also found that the older runners used less energy to walk than sedentary college students as well!
What does that mean? Well, it first indicates that older adults who run regularly will be less tired when doing other activities. The more energy it takes to walk for example, the more tired we become, and the less likely we are to move. This creates a downward spiral of mobility, fitness, and good health.
It also shows the importance of keeping in shape even if you’re young. Youth does not compensate for a lack of activity, so if you’re a college student you’d better get out there and start moving now!
When we push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable, we build stamina and are able to do everyday tasks (like walking) more easily. It is believed that other types of exercises could have the same benefit. That’s why working with a personal trainer or going to fitness classes is also good for us. (Just ask some of my clients!) When instructors push us beyond what we’d normally do, we become stronger and feel better while doing our activities of everyday living, which might include walking up stairs, gardening, and cleaning the house.
This doesn’t mean you should stop walking, especially if you have some limitations that prevent you from running or other more physical activities. Walking has been proven in many studies to have numerous health benefits too, including reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and arthritis. So keep walking, and if you can, run a few days a week. By doing so, you will be able to do the other activities you enjoy for many years to come.
Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, October 19, 2019
Running for Exercise Mitigates Age-Related Deterioration of Walking Economy. J. Ortega, et al. Nov. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113471