Learning to walk before you run

Running, I definitely have a hate-hate relationship with it. I started about a year ago and I’m still struggling. In fact, the distance I run has reduced over the year and I am still running on average only once or twice a week. So it looks like I'm actually getting worse at it!

This is a stark difference to my colleague who runs almost every day on top of doing gym classes and sometimes up to three classes in one evening. I'd rather not like to think my low levels of exercise are because I'm generally unfit and lazy so I was pleased to discover that more studies are suggesting that fitness is genetic.A 2011 study showed that there are genomic predictors when it comes to improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness. Rats were selectively bred in another study and it was demonstrated that voluntary exercise was heritable, so even in rats, some prefer to run over others. 

It did make me feel better to hear this and it may sound like a good scientific excuse to not exercise. But even if not all of us will be able to improve our fitness level or feel like exercising, there is much more evidence to support the benefits. Exercise is one of the most difficult habits to build if you don’t normally do any. It takes lots of effort, buckets of sweat, showering more than once a day, sometimes costs you money and most importantly, it uses up good TV time. 

Introducing something entirely new to your routine will take some time to adjust. Probably one of the most important factors about starting an exercise is to choose an activity you might actually enjoy and can fit easily into your life. 

Over the summer, I decided to not take the bus from the station to and from work and walked instead. Google Maps says it is 1.8 miles and It takes about half an hour each way including time for crossing roads. I do this every work day except when it's really raining. After a couple of months I could feel a difference, my legs were stronger and felt more toned. Four months on, it has now become a habit.

Whilst running has had a resurgence, with friends and colleagues signing up for runs and many TV adverts selling sports gear with stylised running (the reality involves way more sweat), it looks like it might now be walking’s turn. Of course an advert of people brisk walking isn't going to be as dynamic but a 2013 study showed that walking can produce similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly Coronary Heart Disease when the equivalent energy is exerted as running. 

The best thing about walking is that you do it already; to turn it into exercise you just need to do it faster. Speedwise, you need to be walking as if you’re in a hurry and about to miss your favourite TV show. Another test is if you can walk one mile in 15 minutes, you’re doing a brisk walk, this may vary according to your current fitness level. Your walk needs to feel like exercise. Once you improve, challenge yourself by taking a route with a steep incline and start adding in other exercises like strength training and stretching.

You might even find you start coming up with great ideas on your walks; a Stanford study found that walking improved creativity; my walk to and from work has definitely generated ideas.

Exercise doesn't have to be difficult and running isn't the only option. Just remember to choose an activity you like and do it regularly until it becomes a part of your routine. If all fails just start walking, fast!

Need ideas picking an activity? Kent Sport can help.

More advice on turning walking into a harder workout.




If you have concerns about your health you should always consult your doctor before you start exercising. 

This blog post was inspired by the article Hate Running? Then You're Going To Love This Compelling Case For Trading Jogging For Walking.

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