Long, slow walks may beat shorter, higher intensity runs

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Forget about busting your buns on the treadmill. A small new study
suggests that you’ll be healthier if you spend your time taking long, slow walks – and standing instead of sitting whenever possible.
In fact, when volunteers spent two hours standing and four hours walking each day they had healthier insulin levels and lower triglycerides than when they spent an hour a day at the gym cycling for all they were worth, Norwegian researchers found. And that was true even though the volunteers burned nearly the same amount of calories whether they were cycling or slow walking: The main difference was in the number of hours spent sitting.
“Our experimental study on minimal activity showed that reducing sitting time causes improvement in health risk markers,” says study co-author Hans Savelberg, an associate professor at Maastricht University.
Dr. Karol Watson, an expert unaffiliated with the new study, agrees.
“Man was meant to walk – and to walk a lot,” says Watson, an associate professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-director of the UCLA Center for Cholesterol and Lipid Management. “That doesn’t mean marathons, but rather to move around a lot.”
For the new study, Savelberg and his colleagues asked 18 normal weight college students to consecutively spend several days in one of three regimes: sitting for 14 hours a day with no exercise; sitting for 13 hours a day with one hour spent cycling vigorously while monitored by a researcher; and sitting 8 hours a day, walking for four hours, and standing for two hours.”
The students were all asked to wear monitors that kept track of their movements so researchers knew they were following instructions.
After each phase of the experiment, the researchers measured study volunteers’ insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels. Insulin sensitivity is important because it is a predictor of diabetes risk, while lipid levels give doctors a window on heart disease risk. Not surprisingly, when the volunteers sat all day without any exercise, they burned fewer calories. The four hours of leisurely walking burned about the same number of calories as pedal-to-the-metal cycling for an hour. Couch potato behavior led to the worst insulin, cholesterol and triglyceride measurements. But the intriguing finding was that the measurements were far better when the students spent six hours a day walking and standing than they were when volunteers vigorously exercised an hour a day.