This new series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.
Doug Logan is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management, at New York University.
He was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010.
He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999. To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview
This is his 31st article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS REDUX
Take a Fast Hike
I walk every morning wearing a stop watch.
Initially I felt self-conscious about it. I thought I would look stupid trying to keep track of my speed and time next to those runners I encountered who were blazing past me. No different than my feelings of inadequacy at the bench in the gym as I was pressing less than 100 pounds while the studs were heaving a multiple of that puny weight.
However, I have spent my whole life obsessed with metrics, particularly my own. I weigh myself every morning and log it. When I was running I charted every workout. I have kept years of business journals. It has something to do with self assessment and competing against myself.
It now turns out I have not been all wet. My compulsive inclination to measure my walks now allows me to compare my performance against some interesting new studies.
Earlier this month Gretchen Reynolds had an interesting post titled Why a Brisk Walk is Better on NYTimes.com. She wrote about a new analysis of the National Walker’s Health Study, a large database of information that is maintained at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The conclusion of this analysis is that there is compelling evidence that walking faster reduces the risk of dying prematurely and postpones the onset of heart disease and dementia.
The “walking community” is a vocal cohort and it seems that everyone has their own theory of the efficacy of their method of pursuing the activity. How far? How many days a week? How fast? Use of ankle and wrist weights? Earphones? Stretching? Solo or with a partner? Most can quote a definitive scientific study that justifies the way they do things.
One of the common strains in the boring chatter among walkers is the following theory. That it makes no difference how fast you walk as long as you complete the desired distance. This theory concludes that because you expend the same amount of energy and basically burn the same amount of calories for a set distance, that speed is irrelevant and you can achieve the same health benefits by walking slower. These theorists espouse taking it a little easier and “smelling the flowers.”
We can now file this premise in the shibboleth folder.
Paul T. Williams, a statistician at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, gathered data from 7,374 male and 31,607 female middle-aged participants from the walker’s health study. They represented almost every speed of fitness walker, from sluggish to swift. He divided the walkers into four even numbered groups based on their normal pace. The fastest category averaged less than 13.5 minutes per mile; the slowest walked at a rate slower than 17 minutes per mile. A large number in this slowest group walked at a 20 minute plus per mile pace [3 mph].
Then, Dr. Williams cross-referenced his data against the National Death Index to determine which of the 39,000 or so walkers had died in the decade since they had joined the survey, and from what. He determined that nearly 2,000 walkers had died and these deaths were disproportionately clustered among the slowest walkers. Those in the slowest category were about 18 percent more likely to have died from any cause than those in the other three categories and were particularly vulnerable to deaths from heart disease and dementia. In addition, those who could not walk faster than a 24 minute per mile pace were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who walked faster, even if they otherwise met commonly recognized exercise guidelines.
“Our results do suggest that there is a significant health benefit to pursuing a faster pace,” Dr. Williams said. Pushing your body, he said, appears to cause favorable physiological changes that milder exercise doesn’t replicate.
One interesting finding was that female walkers were faster than men in all of the categories. I can vouch for this anecdotally from the evidence I have observed on my own walking routes.
I love scientific studies that validate what I am doing [you won’t see me write much about the ones that don’t]. I walk every day for 75-80 minutes, covering five miles in 15-16 minutes per mile. I want to walk a minute per mile faster in the next year. The trick is to do this without getting hurt; without stumbling and falling; without getting so sore that I don’t want to walk the next day.
I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and wish for you a prosperous and healthy New Year. I am going to take a one week hiatus for the holidays and intend to resume my posts on Thursday, January 2, 2014.