Don't Walk, Run To Keep Your Legs Young

Illustration for article titled Dont Walk, Run To Keep Your Legs Young

More evidence that running is good for you. New findings out of the University of Colorado's Locomotion Laboratory show that runners in their 60s and 70s are more efficient walkers than seniors who walk regularly for exercise.


Top Photo: Warein | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Walking ability tends to decline with age. To test whether walking or running into one's senior years can slow this decline, researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, California monitored the biomechanics and oxygen intake of 60- to 70-year old runners and walkers. As the New York Times reports:

...the runners were better, more efficient walkers than the walkers. They required less energy to move at the same pace as the volunteers who only walked regularly.

In fact, when the researchers compared their older runners' walking efficiency to that of young people, which had been measured in earlier experiments at the same lab, they found that 70-year-old runners had about the same walking efficiency as your typical sedentary college student. Old runners, it appeared, could walk with the pep of young people.

Older walkers, on the other hand, had about the same walking economy as people of the same age who were sedentary. In effect, walking did not prevent people from losing their ability to walk with ease.

Tellingly, the biomechanics of the runners were almost identical to those of the walkers, suggesting that the efficiency of runners' movement can be traced to the cellular level, or to coordination between muscles, according to Humboldt University's Justus Ortega, who led the study:

But whatever the reason, running definitely mitigated the otherwise substantial decline in walking economy that seems to occur with age, he said, a result that has implications beyond the physiology lab. If moving feels easier, he said, people tend to do more of it, improving their health and enhancing their lives in the process.


Just remember: Being a runner doesn't give you a free pass to eat whatever you want, and the jury is still out on the potentially harmful effects of extreme endurance exercise, which some studies suggest may actually give rise to heart problems. So, you know, moderation and all that.



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Yeah, but I heard running is not good for your knees.