Opinion: Jogging beats walking

POSTED: 01/10/12 3:07 PM

It’s that time of the year again. The party is over, and the New Year lied ahead of us. For those among us who gained some weight during the holidays – and for those who were already overweight to begin with – we present here some insights from American scientists about ways to shed those kilos.

Since not everybody is a born athlete, quite some overweight people use walking or power-walking to burn at least some calories. That’s not the smartest thing to do, researchers at the North Carolina State University discovered. It is better to jog than to walk they concluded after reviewing muscle scans of walking and jogging people.

The research shows that the calf muscle adapts to one’s speed, a bit like a car that moves into higher gear.

The calf starts working when we begin to move. It holds the Achilles tendon on one end and stretches on the other end with the assistance of released energy. Subsequently, the Achilles tendon uses this energy to keep us moving.

The researchers found that among people who walked fast the muscle had to work harder, but that it released less energy. That inefficient process results in a significant decline of endurance.

People who walk two meter per second give the muscle more time to adjust its length. This gives more power while the muscle doesn’t need to work all that hard. Two meter per second amounts to a speed of 7.2 kilometers per hour. To put this number in perspective, the Nigerian athlete Patrick Makau developed a speed of 20.47 kilometers per hour when he set a new world record on the marathon in Berlin last year.

Researchteam-leader Gregory Sawicki says that the findings prove why race walking is not very successful among athletes. “Your muscles do not work efficiently if you walk faster and faster, so you body chooses to switch to jogging. This way it maintains efficiency and comfort, and it stores precious energy.”

The professor says that a muscle is not able to catch up with the speed of pace when someone starts to walk faster and faster. But if you switch to jogging, the muscle is able to remain the same. Even if you walk faster and faster, the calf hardly needs to adjust, he said.

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