Now Walk It Out: Why Walking is The New Running
Updated: 16 hours ago
Before I jump into this, I’m by no means saying do not run or that running is bad! Running is good in moderation. Kind of like chocolate, avocado, coconut oil, kale - you see my point. If you’ve been following me for a while now when it comes to healthy weight loss, it is a combo of what you're eating, when you're eating, how you're eating, and overall lifestyle including stress and movement. Oh, and when reading studies, BMI means sh*t. BMI =weight & height. That really provides no insight on muscle vs fat and this formula is used for all genders. This study shows runners had a lower BMI than walkers. I weigh more now than I did when I used to run, yet I'm leaner and stronger. So if I was in this study, they would say my walking increased my BMI. See my point.
So many of my clients come to me exhausted and log long runs daily and see no improvement. They feel wired and tired and inflamed and unhappy with how they look. So I'm breaking it down. I call this the art of doing less.
As a society, we’re told in order to lose weight we must burn more calories and eat less. Running burns a lot of calories and is accessible to many as it does not require a gym membership. However, the calories in and calories out theory is flawed; it does not take into account our hormones. Weight loss is a hormonal concern, not a caloric one. Those who follow this idea often lose weight at first, but eventually, their BMR (basal metabolic rate) slows down and the body perceives its in a starvation phase and clings to fat.
Walking has been shown to improve weight loss. Period. Here's the proof in the pudding. One study found obese women with elevated insulin resistance markers were able to loose abdominal weight and improve inflammatory markers and insulin. In fact, these women had significant reductions in both subcutaneous and visceral adiposity. All they did was 3 days of walking per week and for 50-70 minutes.
Another study had similar findings where overweight men were able to greatly reduce their abdominal visceral adipose tissue from daily walks.
So why are so programmed to think in order to lose weight, we have to run and not walk?
I’m here to talk about running and walking, and our hormones. For some, especially women, logging long runs or running every single day can result in additional weight gain around the waistline (visceral fat). For others, it might manifest itself into something such as loss of period, acne, fatigue, hypothyroidism and GUT ISSUES. Oh, I could write a book on excess cortisol from over-exercising. Remember, exercise is a stressor and when done right it is good, but too much, and the body responds the same way it responds to any other stress in your life.
Today’s post is breaking down why I recommend clients opt for walking over running for weight loss. Side note: if they love to run, I don’t discourage them, we simply work together to find balance.
Running burns way more calories than walking - you bet your bottom dollar it does. We know that physical activity increases energy expenditure, and improves metabolic efficiency, body composition, and appetite control, which are all good things. The type of activity and duration is critical.
What happens when you run? The first 2 mins of the run your body uses a quick, but an ineffective source of energy via anaerobic metabolism before switching over to aerobic metabolism.
Most of you may know the body will tap into your carbs for energy (glycogen). Your body needs help to stimulate the release of those stored carbs, so it calls on some hormones with the star being cortisol, a glucocorticoid, gluco: meaning glucose (sugar); and corticoid: meaning a steroid made from cholesterol.
When we run long distances or are running every day, and this can result in chronically high levels of cortisol in the blood.
Walking balances cortisol! In fact, studies show that those who walk have a lower BMI and waist circumference than those who don't.
Research also highlights the power of walking and its ability to balance your hormones, increase energy levels, protect your thyroid, and reduce PMS symptoms, to name a few.
You don't need to walk for hours either. One study found two bouts of 25-minute power walking was more effective than one 50 minute walk. Find what works for you.
Aim for a brisk walk first thing in the morning. I’d aim to walk anywhere between 30-60 minutes. I like to couple my morning walk with some light strength training such as light weights or pilates or yoga. Your muscles are your metabolism and lean muscle improves blood sugar regulation meaning your body requires less insulin.
Cortisol: What the actual F is that?
Cortisol is produced as a result of essentially every type of workout and is an essential part of exercise (it provides energy).
Cortisol stimulates glycogen breakdown in the liver, liberating glucose, and increasing blood sugar levels, which provide the body with energy.
A key role of cortisol is to raise blood sugar – to provide quick energy for necessary activities. It also regulates metabolism, reduces inflammation, and enhances memory formulation, when function properly.
It’s when it becomes chronic it becomes problematic. High levels of cortisol cause your body to deposit and store fat around the abdomen - even if you are exercising more and eating less. That's because high blood sugar levels lead to more insulin (a fat-storage hormone) and eventually poor glucose control.
Cortisol is required for optimal health and when released in appropriate amounts its anti-inflammatory, it supports our immune system and blood pressure management, which are all beneficial to the body.
Long term effects of chronic cortisol activation: The effects of insulin are counteracted, increasing insulin resistance. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Insulin resistance = weight gain Metabolic factors affecting adipogenesis (aka white fat) includes glucocorticoids! Long-term it leads to insulin resistance.
It also negatively impacts the thyroid, our master regulatory gland, responsible for the metabolic function, or of calorie burning. Intense exercise can temporarily raise blood sugar, so if you have poor blood sugar control, to begin with, this will command the issue.
Women: When you exhaust your body from long, grueling workouts, this results in an increase in estrone (one of the three estrogen hormones that tell your body to store more fat) and cortisol (progesterone is converted to cortisol, which also signals fat storage, under extended periods of high stress). Cortisol also wreak havoc on your gut. Also, depending on where you are in your cycle, this can literally cause your body to hold on to fat. From a survival standpoint, your body is thinking of famine, and in widespread famine, the last thing it wants to do is reproduce, so we'll hang on to some fat. Your hormones are like what the actual F and you are literally working against your physiology if you're a woman. Opt for walking over and running and see how you respond. Oh, and if you're a woman who is low-carb and chronic cardio this can also result in fat-storage and negatively microbial diversity.
Do I need to give up running?
No! If you’re on a weight loss journey, and running all the time with little to no change on the scale, even though your diet is on point, slow down.