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Fitness | BODY MATTERS

Can't run? No sweat. Just walk.

June 04, 2007|Jay Blahnik | Special to The Times

I have tried running many times, but I can only do it for a few minutes, and I find it really uncomfortable. Is walking just as good as running? Can I do that instead?

LISA

Oceanside

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Running is great for your heart and lungs, and burns more calories per minute than almost any other activity. But running also creates a lot of impact stress on your back and joints. Like you, many people simply find running too uncomfortable.

Walking is a great alternative. Although it burns only about half as many calories per minute as running, walking can be done almost anywhere or anytime, frequently without even breaking a sweat. And that means you will probably do it more often -- which means better results.

Here are a few motivating facts:

* Walking is the single most popular exercise activity in the world, by far.

* It burns approximately 100 calories per mile.

* At 3 mph (strolling pace), you can walk a mile in just 20 minutes. At 4 mph (power walking pace), you can walk a mile in just 15 minutes.

* Walking produces little stress on the back and joints, while improving circulation, balance and cardiovascular health. And it can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

* It's the activity our bodies were best designed to do, with one of the lowest risks of injury of any fitness activity.

There are many ways to fit walking into your schedule, boost its effectiveness and make it more fun. Consider a few of these options:

* Alternate fast walking with slower walking by changing speeds every block (or, on a treadmill, every two-tenths of a mile). This will not only burn more calories than slow walking, but also will make workouts more interesting.

* Try walking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. These short bursts are easier to fit into your schedule, and you can burn almost 200 calories a day with them. That can equate to almost 2 pounds of weight loss per month.

* Head to the beach or trails with mixed terrain. Walking on soft sand and rolling hills burns more calories than walking on flat surfaces.

* If you have kids who play soccer, football or softball, take a walk around the field or school grounds while they're at practice, during the longer breaks or before or after a game.

* Turn walks into a boot camp by adding lunges, running stairs or side shuffling across an open area every few minutes.

* Purchase an inexpensive pedometer and keep track of how many steps you take daily. Take short walks throughout the day and try to accumulate more steps each week than you did the week before.

* Instead of meeting a friend for coffee and hanging out for a chat, meet a friend for coffee and go for a walk. In just 30 minutes, you can cover 2 miles, burn 200 calories and still get your catch-up time.

You may be surprised to find that the more often and more briskly you walk, the more comfortable running might become. If so, you can mix up your walking and running, and get the best of both worlds.

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Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at jay@jayblahnik.com or health@latimes.com.

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