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Study Finds One Hour High Intensity Workout Equal to 50 Hours of Walking…


December 2013

Another good title would have been:  Study Finds If You’re Having a Tough Time Losing Weight with Exercise, Go Faster.

I bumped into a post yesterday that went a long way to explain my own personal experience and beliefs but I wanted to do a little more research because I wanted to give my post a little due diligence and originality…  Imagine my surprise when I found another post with the same exact title… I thought the first plagiarized this post but I was kind of mistaken, because there is a little “source” link at the bottom that I missed (“Source” should have been “Copied and Pasted from this Post”)…  Humorously enough, the second link is plagiarized from this post.  Now, if this isn’t crazy enough, that third link plagiarized this post!  And they all have the same title…  Originality:  It isn’t just a river in…  Uh…  Never mind.

Oh how nice it is to live in my man-cave.

All joking aside, I’ve always loved to gently rib the whole “walking is just as good as running” or “walk-running (or run-walking) is faster/better than just running” crowd.  Running and walking may be easier and allow people to go farther than if they’d run the whole way, but better?  Yeah, and monkeys will be flying out of your butt in the near future.  Ignorance is bliss.  Let’s be clear, going for a walk is better than nothing and going for a run/walk is certainly better than just going for a walk but I want to break the linked posts down to something that is a little more understandable – to give this some shape.

Again, walking is better than nothing, but it most definitely isn’t as good as a nice sprint around the block.  Without getting too deep, here’s the important part:  The linked articles went off a study that used 75% of max heart rate as the target area:  I have a resting heart rate of 46 and a max of 190 (going by age alone, 177 bpm) so seventy-five percent of 190 is about 142.5 bpm.  To clear this up and make it easy, we’re talking about the middle of zone two here* (according to my handy-dandy Azumio Heart Rate App).

Well, I say let’s get right to the good stuff.  Let’s really play with some of my numbers here and find out what we’re looking at!  One hour of intense physical exercise is the same as 50 hours of walking:

One 7.2 mile run at 8:15 minute/mile pace is better for you than 49 hours of walking.
One 18.5 mile bike ride at 3:10 minute/mile pace is better for you than 49 hours of walking.

Now, let’s make the difference between pushing that ass and going for a walk even more stark:

If you did the government recommended minimum, a 30 minute walk, six days a week it would take you almost TWO MONTHS to get the benefits I get from ONE of my bike rides…  On an easy day.

Now we can delve a little deeper…  To the scientific equivalent of “No Shit Sherlock”:

Regardless of the variation of methods used to report exercise intensities, a consistent pattern appeared with the findings. All of the epidemiology studies that controlled for energy expenditure found greater cardioprotective benefits from the higher aerobic exercise intensities as compared to the moderate aerobic exercise intensities. As a matter of fact, no epidemiological study reported a greater cardioprotective benefit from moderate intensity versus vigorous aerobic exercise. The clinical studies showed very similar results. When energy expenditure was controlled for in the study, the vigorous exercise intensity was more beneficial in altering one or more risk factors to coronary heart disease. Specifically, in relation to the coronary heart disease, the #1 cause of mortality in America, aerobic exercise of a more vigorous type resulted in lower incidence.

Why do the higher aerobic exercise intensities elicit the great cardioprotective results?
The known biological and psychological mechanisms of regular physical activity are numerous and summarized in Table 1. Regular physical exercise has been shown to play a critical role in the prevention and management of numerous chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, cancer and depression (Warburton, Nicol & Bredin, 2006).

There is an important qualification (or five) to make here.  I’m using my numbers, yours may (will) vary.  Physical exercise, if one is not in shape and/or one is older, should be started only after consulting a doctor as nobody wants to croak because they tried to do too much too quickly.  Also, one does not just step off the porch to run with the big dogs.  It takes some time and effort to work up to it.  As well, there is an important balance that must be maintained between not working hard enough and working too hard – do your research.  Finally it is important that you not hook yourself up to an automated ass-kicking machine.  There is a vast difference between trying harder and feeling like a loser because you don’t want to work harder.  There are no losers in physical fitness, we are talking about best results – not the only way to get results.  The easiest way for me to look at whether or not I’m doing enough is like this:  I always assume I’m being lazy until I find that I’ve over-trained.  Then I take it easy for a week or two and start all over again (note that “take it easy” does not say “take a week or two off).

* My good friend Elisariva has gone to the trouble of having her zones professionally measured and explained that her running zone two and her cycling zone two vary by ten beats per minute (if memory serves)…  So going by that, 142.5 bpm on a bike would be low end zone three and in the middle of zone two for running.  I didn’t want to cloud the post by making it too difficult to understand – especially considering that I don’t understand how that works either…and I won’t be heading out to get my zones measured up any time soon because I’m fast enough for government work.  😉

UPDATE:  Gary, a long-time cyber-friend of mine, disagreed with the linked reports and studies.  Now knowing him as I do, he does nothing half-assed so his idea of walking (80 miles a week at approximately a 5 mph pace) is entirely not what the reports and studies looked at…   However, the distinction may not have been made clearly enough – the context of the study was looking more at a leisurely 30 minute walk as opposed to an activity that keeps one’s heart rate above 75% of max…  The important benchmark is that 75% of max heart rate.


  1. I find it good to mix it up. Low, medium and high intensity workouts. Keeps the bosy guessing to what is coming next. I actually find interval training the best which mixes up all three. I will start out a run slow to warm up, then build up a little and then do a flat out run for either a distance or a time and then start again. One of the guys I train with does a run workout called a ladder. It is a brutal workout just trying to manage the pace.

    • bgddyjim says:

      You’re right… The high intensity workouts should be limited to three a week, mixing others in as you suggested. I missed adding that to my post. Thanks for looking out brother.

  2. Cliff Parks says:

    You just jogged my memory about something my cardiologist said to me that is important. When your muscles are weak, then your heart is pumping harder to make them work. In other words, if you are walking up hill and your heart is pumping hard, that’s becuae it is sending much needed blood to your legs. When you are better conditioned, then your heart rate will be better.

  3. Gary says:

    Boy, can’t agree with this at all. As someone who used to bike (and bike hard) for 25 hours a week, and now walks nearly 80 miles a week (20 hours), walking is pretty darn hard. Now, it’s certainly not as aerobic as cycling, but 1 hr > 50 hours of walking? Go walk 100 miles in a week and you’re legs will be crying….

    • bgddyjim says:

      You make a very good point Gary, but when viewed in context, we’re looking at disease prevention, weight loss and most importantly, aerobic gains when viewed against the government recommended 30 minutes a day – which we all know is absurdly low so as not to scare the unfit. In order to really shift into positive gain territory with walking, you’re looking at a ten minute mile. And I know you can ride – in fact, I know you don’t do anything half-assed. I will amend the post to reflect your comment though – when you’re right, your right.

      Hope things are well my friend. Happy Holidays.

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