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In a bid to stay fit and in shape, people resort to various means. From fad workouts to crash diets to weight loss services, the fitness industry revolves around helping people lose weight. Throughout the US, obesity and weight related disorders have become almost like an epidemic, with every third person unhealthy and out of shape. Being overweight has both physical and psychological effects. It affects appetite, confidence, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, a large number of people are affected by such unhealthy lifestyles and excess weight related issues.

While blindly following fitness trends, we often tend to forget that there are simple everyday solutions for staying healthy and in shape. For instance, everyday exercises like running, walking, and jogging can be highly beneficial to both physical and mental well being if done on a regular basis. Whether a beginner or an exercise pro, walking, jogging and running are meant for all and the benefits they offer can improve health and vitality at all stages. All three of these are forms of aerobic exercises, aiding in weight loss and flexibility over time.

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Walking vs. jogging vs. running

The common factor shared by walking, running and jogging is that they are all forms of aerobics. Aerobic exercise is popularly known as “cardio”, because it trains the heart to pump blood more efficiently. Aerobic means exercises performed at a steady pace over a continuous period. Walking, swimming, running, using the treadmill, dancing and cycling are all forms of aerobic exercise, which pump more oxygen into your body by increasing the heart and breathing rates. The level of intensity of aerobic exercises isn’t too high, because the aim is to not make you breathless, but provide more oxygen.

The basic difference between walking, jogging and running is intensity. Jogging is more intense than walking, and running is more intense than jogging. All the three are a natural progression of the other. Walking progresses to jogging which progresses to running. The correct way to measure the difference between the three is the amount of energy they burn.

To put it simply, walking, jogging and running are ways to transport ourselves from one place to another, using our own energy and muscle power. Walking is the easiest to differentiate from jogging and running; walking is lower intensity and so common that most people don’t even consider it exercise. But even though walking is lower intensity, it can be effective in maintaining good health and vitality.

For every liter of oxygen that we breathe, we burn about five calories. The harder the muscles work, the greater is the oxygen demand they make and the more oxygen we need. This is how the difference between walking jogging and running is measured. The better the fitness level of a person, the less oxygen he needs to perform higher intensity exercises. This is why an athlete will find that he jogs at the speed which everyone else runs at. This is because professional athletes have better aerobic conditioning and a higher level of endurance. The speed at which he jogs will depend on the load on his muscles and the oxygen demand on his lungs.

The easiest way to distinguish between jogging and running is the ability to hold a conversation. While jogging it is possible to talk and breathe normally, because the oxygen load on the lungs is not too great. This is why it qualifies as jogging and not running.

Walking costs the least energy, but the faster we walk the greater the energy expenditure. We start to breathe heavier, until the point when the energy cost exceeds a threshold and walking becomes more like jogging. For instance, someone walking at a speed of 10 kilometer per hour has a higher oxygen requirement than someone running at the same speed. Therefore, the moment the energy expenditure exceeds the threshold, the body switches gears from walking to jogging to running. When the speed drops, the amount of energy required also drops dramatically.

This change from walking too jogging to running is made by the body automatically to be able to optimize how it moves and how it uses the available energy. This is why maintaining a particular speed is required if someone tried to lose weight using walking, jogging or running. The faster the speed, the greater the calorie burn. Using ankle and wrist weights are also useful in pumping up the calorie burn. A slow run or jog is helpful to maintain everyday agility and fitness, but not enough for weight loss. A fast power walk using weights is more effective than jogging at a slow speed. Jogging at the top of the range is also more effective than running at a moderate pace. The greater the speed, regardless of the type of exercise, the more calories are burned.

Health benefits

Regardless of whether or not you are trying to lose weight, walking, jogging and running have several health benefits spanning mind and body. All three of them involve rhythmic forward action of the legs targeting the large muscles of the lower body including the hip flexors, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and hamstrings, besides the gastrocnemius and the anterior tibialis. The hip abductors and hip adductors are also important because they stabilize the hips and legs.

Along with the legs, the core muscles are also involved in walking, jogging and running. The core muscles help keep the torso erect as the arms swing with the movement of the legs. For walking, jogging, as well as running, proper alignment of the torso is highly essential. This keeps away stress from the joints and lower back. Whether you walk, jog or run, the abdominal muscles must be kept engaged and the right upper postural position must be maintained by keeping the shoulders relaxed but straight, and making sure the arms are never too high by keeping a lot of distance between the shoulders and the ears.

Let’s take a look at the various health benefits of walking, jogging and running:

Improved cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness:

The two organs most significantly involved in all three – walking, jogging and running – is the heart and the lungs. The heart pumps blood and the lungs supply oxygen. Experts recommend that cardiovascular or aerobic exercises are the best way to improve heart and lungs health. Cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness is enhanced by increasing the capacity of your body to use oxygen. This is achieved by increasing the heart’s capacity to pump blood to the muscles which happens through the increase in the size of the heart’s ventricles. When the capillaries increase in size, the heart doesn’t have to work hard to pump blood. This gets proved by a slower heart rate at rest and also a slower heart rate during exercise.

When you keep walking, jogging, running regularly, you will notice that these activities become easier. You will also notice that you are able to do the activity for a longer time (called endurance), and also at a higher intensity (running at a faster speed). Even when you are not exercising, you will find an increase in your day to day stamina.

Better sleep:

Adding walking, jogging or running to everyday routine has also been found to improve sleep and prevent sleep related disorders. In a study involving 50 people, half of them were asked to walk, jog, or run as part of their daily routines, while the other half was not. The first group walked, jogged or ran for about 30 minutes every day, five days a week for a period of three weeks. It was found that the people in the first group slept much better and had improved psychological functioning compared to the other group.

Walking, jogging or running regularly improves the circadian rhythm, promotes daytime alertness and helps stimulate sleep at night. Aerobics have also been shown to improve sleep for those who suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

Calorie burn:

The simplest of all exercises is walking. You don’t even have to jog or run. Simply walking at a fast pace for 30 minutes a day can burn more than 100 calories. If you want to take it a notch higher, you can jog at the top of the range or run at 5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. At this rate, a person weighing 160 pounds will burn more than 500 calories in an hour. This goes on to show that you don’t need to spend money on that expensive gym membership. Simply jogging or running for an hour every day is an easier way to burn calories and get in shape.

Prevent cognitive illnesses:

If you dread age related cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, the best you can do today is include running, jogging, or simply walking to your daily routine. Even if you aren’t old, aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, running or even swimming can dramatically improve memory and cognitive function. In a research on the brain boosting effects of aerobic exercised like running, jogging, or brisk walking found that it improved working memory and concentration in children and young adults. In older adults and seniors, aerobics have a long list of cognitive improvements, including memory, concentration, and task switching.

Increased lifespan:

It goes without saying that if your bodily functions remain normal, your hormones and blood pressure remain under control, and your heart and lung health also remain top notch because of exercise, you are likely to live a long healthy life. Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise like walking or jogging on a regular basis reduces your chances of dying from any cause. Getting an hour or more of exercise every day also makes you resistant to various forms of cancer, according to research.

Goal setting

Walking is a fairly common activity that almost everyone engages in on a daily basis. But since jogging and running are more intense than walking, they require proper goal setting. If you treat jogging or running like a proper exercise regime, you also need to know why you want to do it. Without a proper goal, you may lose motivation quickly and may also fail to track your progress. As with any form of exercise, when you have a goal in sight, it makes you enjoy the process even more and also motivated you to get better. Think about what you want to achieve from walking, jogging or running. Reasons may include:

Getting healthy and fit:

If you are a beginner with no prior experience exercising, you should start slow, possibly with walking or jogging at a slow pace. Walking and jogging are also the perfect warm up to    any intense form of exercise. If you are too lazy to try other intense    forms of exercise or simply don’t have the time, jogging or power walking    is a good way to get fit and flexible. Progressing from one stage to the next takes a few weeks, depending on your flexibility. If you have no prior exercise experience, make sure to take it slow and not get frustrated with your lack of progress.

Overall fitness and flexibility:

You can mix walking, jogging and running with other exercises such as sports, swimming or strength training.  This not only makes you more flexible but also helps maximize your overall fitness.

Weight loss:

Losing weight and getting into shape are two of the biggest reasons why people start to exercise. If you want to lose weight with running walking or jogging, you also need to have a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. You also need to reduce or stop consumption of processed and takeaway foods, dietary fats, aerated drinks, and sugar.

Companionship:

Your fitness goals can help you make new friends. This usually happens when you go for your walks or jogs every day and strike a friendship with others like you. In fact, simple exercises like walking and jogging bond people more than intense exercises in the gym. You could either accompany a friend or join a local club. Having someone to exercise with also serves as motivation and guidance. If you don’t normally get to meet too many people every day, a running or jogging club can be a great    option.

Competition:

You never know how good you are until you compete against others. This is why taking part in running or power walking competitions is a good way to put your stills to test. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, various running or fitness clubs have various types of competitions for all stages of people. In many cases, you don’t even have to be a member of that club in order to take part in the competitive events. You can compete to test your skills, have fun, or to stretch your boundaries. In these competitions you can pit your skills against that of the others. Various community events have facilities for people of all ages and different abilities.

Beginner walking, jogging and running tips

Just about anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness can start walking, jogging, or running. But for complete beginners who have never exercised before at all, even walking and jogging come with a few warnings. Following these guidelines reduces your chances of injuries and muscle strain, and also helps you get the most out of your exercise routine.

Some of the tips for beginners are:

Make sure to check with your doctor before you start power walking jogging or running. This is more important if you are above the age of 40, overweight, suffer from a chronic illness or have never exercised before. Even if you don’t have serious illness, you should consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting to exercise for the first time.

Go for a pre-exercise screening to uncover medical conditions that may put you at a higher risk of facing a health issue during a physical activity. You may not even be aware you have a certain condition until you go for the pre-screening. This acts like a ‘safety net’ and helps decide if the health risks associated with physical activity outweigh the benefits for you. Discuss the pre-screening result with your doctor.

Always start slow, preferably with brisk walking. Even 30 minutes of brisk walking per session is a good enough exercise for a beginner. This should be continued for at least six weeks, gradually building up to jogging and regular running. Your aim should be to increase your duration with each session, alternating between walking jogging, and running.

Warming up and stretching before you begin any physical activity is your body’s way to prepare for exercise. If you start running or jogging the moment you get out of bed, you risk injuring and straining your muscles. Cooling down is also important, preferably with some light stretches.

Never forget to take a water bottle with you, whenever you’re out exercising. Having plenty of fluids to drink is essential during any physical activity because you’re going to lose fluids in the form of perspiration. Try to drink before, during, and after any physical activity including walking, jogging, and running.

Don’t train every day of the week. There must be at least two full days of rest per week, in order to prevent overtraining and injury. If you do want to exercise on your rest days, consider a low impact activity like walking or swimming.

When out walking, jogging, or running, make sure to avoid the ‘peak hour’ in the mornings because that’s when air pollution is also at its peak. Always choose a park with running or jogging tracks, and time your exercise either early in the morning or late in the evening.

Your clothes and shoes play a vital role in keeping you comfortable. Always wear loose cotton clothing and also wear a proper pair of walking or running shoes. Do not wear your old, worn out pair of sneakers. The ideal shoe should be flexible, bend with your feet, and also be shock absorbent. Always get the correct size that isn’t too loose or too snug. The wrong shoe can often be the cause of injuries.

Summary

A lot of people don’t have the time to go the gym or the ability for intense exercise even if they do want to get fit. For those people – and anyone who wants to enjoy better quality of health – walking, jogging and running have incredible benefits. You don’t have to subscribe to a gym membership or buy fancy equipment. Simply get a pair of running shoes and head to the nearest park or jogging track. You can also join a club for power walking, jogging or running, and enjoy the benefit of making friends and getting motivated on your way to fitness.