The truth about Walking vs Running

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The truth about Walking vs Running

“Steady breath in, breathe out, right foot tap, left foot tap, bend knees, straighten back, relax shoulders, relax arms, loose hands, tap tap, tap tap, in, out, try to relax, there’s the next corner, breathe in-out, tap-tap nearly there …”

Anyone who’s ever run for exercise or competition may be familiar with some of these thoughts. They’re not there to remind our body how to run, but more of a distraction or focus to stay on track or at a pace to make it to the finish.

But what is really occurring in our body when we run? And did anyone ever explain it to us when we were first asked to run to complete a specific activity?

We grow up running for fun, playing tag or hide and seek with our siblings, cousins or friends. This type of running was only ever for fun, in short spurts, and we always stopped and sat down when we were tired or when we got tagged or found.

What happens in primary school when we are first asked to run, to complete a set distance, or to chase a ball or run a race? Was it explained to us what happens in our body and were we asked if we actually wanted to do it, or was it a given that this is what we had to do – running is normal?

Something we should have all been told about running relates to Newton’s third law of motion:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

When we push against the ground with a certain weight or force, the force of gravity pushes back against us with the exact same level of force, but in the opposite direction. This means that if we push into the ground with 1 unit of force, then there is 1 unit of force returning up and into our body. Or if we push down into the ground with 5 units of force, then there are 5 units of force returning up and into our body.

This force is known as the Ground Reaction Force (GRF) and our body uses the ground reaction forces to produce the momentum of movement… so basically to walk or run.

Walking vs Running?

When we walk the ground reaction force is approximately equal to our bodyweight. So very roughly we could say a 60kg person has 60kg of forces coming back up into their body to be used as energy to propel the movement. Or for a 100 kg person there are 100 kg of forces coming back up into their body to result in walking.

When we run the ground reaction force is approximately 3 to 5 times our body weight, depending how fast we are running. So for the 60kg person this is between 180kg to 300kg of force. Or for the 100 kg person this is 300kg to 500kg of force.

Here’s the punch line – this amount of force comes up and into our body for every step that we take!

So let’s go back to the 60kg person and consider the minimum forces in their body if they were to run 1 km.

  • For an average height person (and therefore average leg length) there are approximately 1,250 steps in a 1km run
  • We multiply this by our minimum force of 180kg for a low jog and we get 225,000 kg of force (1,250 steps x 180 kg = 225,000 kg).

So for a 60kg person to jog 1 km there is approximately 225,000 kg of force placed through their body, which is 225 tonne or 3750 times their body weight.

So what happens to all of this force? Could it be a factor in runner’s knee pain, shin splints or a myriad of other running injuries that plague athletes?

Without going into too much physics, let’s say there is a very large percentage of force that is absorbed into our body and a smaller percentage that is transferred through the muscles to produce the movement. The amount absorbed and the amount transferred into movement have a lot to do with posture, the way the body is moving and overall how efficient the running technique is.

So where is the force absorbed into the body? It’s mostly into the delicate connective tissue found in the joints, the tendons, ligaments, cartilage and even the bone. The long-term consequences of this can be quite traumatic: running injuries result in the early degeneration or breaking down of hips, knees and ankles. Those shin splints, heel pain or other running injuries may just be the first sign of more significant damage.

People with very poor posture, incorrect mechanics of movement and overall a very inefficient walking technique, will often end up with lower back pain and hip or knee pain, because these joints have absorbed so much of the load that the muscles are not converting into movement correctly. This can all happen even without running, so imagine the increased chance of injury with the additional load of running.

So let’s finish with the real questions we can ask ourselves about running;

  • Is our body actually designed to run?
  • What is the strain placed on our body when we run?
  • Why do we override the harm in the body and continue to run?
  • Is walking a more beneficial way to truly improve the health and fitness of the body?

Listen to this audio about fitness and exercise by Serge Benhayon to continue to ponder on this further:

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The body is not designed to run

We’ve all been taught that running is good for our bodies … but is that really true?

The fitness you want for your body can be achieved through a gentle walking programme which minimises strain. The truth about running vs walking is – do we really want 5 times the force of our body weight travelling through us each time we land, with all of the implications that there are for causing injury and harm in the body?


DISCLAIMER

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    By Dr Danielle Pirera, Exercise Physiologist, BBiomedSci BExSci PhD DipRemMsg Cert IV Fitness CertIV TAE

    Simple, sweet, sassy and sciencey. I love to explore and understand the body, the science, the energy, the philosophy and it’s relationship with the universe and how to live a truly harmonious and evolutionary life.