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Drs. Oz and Roizen: Walking beats running every time

  • Published Monday, April 22, 2013, at 11:32 p.m.

You don’t have to walk far to gain the benefits of putting one foot in front of the other.

Among walking’s virtues: It’s low-impact, and you likely won’t get injured or wear out your joints. Plus, as you’re passed by joggers who seem to be thinking, “What’s walking? That’s not exercise!” you can take satisfaction in knowing that your activity actually delivers more health benefits than running does.

A new study evaluated the health boosts you get from equivalent energy expenditures with moderate intensity walking and vigorous intensity running. (Run for 15 minutes? Walk for about 30 minutes to get an equivalent energy output.)

• Walking reduced the risk for developing hypertension by 7.2 percent; running, 4.2 percent.

• Walking slashed the risk for developing high cholesterol by 7 percent; running, 4.3 percent.

• Walking cut the risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 12.3 percent; running, 12.1 percent.

• And walking nipped the risk for developing coronary artery disease 9.3 percent, running 4.5 percent.

Interested? Enlist a pal, and try this:

• Weeks 1-2: Walk continuously for 30 minutes (1 mile in 16-18 minutes), three times a week.

• Weeks 3-4: Go for 30 minutes (1 mile in 14-15 minutes) five times a week.

• Week 5: Increase to 45 minutes almost every day. Over time, aim for 10,000 steps daily. And if you combine daily walking and 20 minutes of aerobics three times a week, amazing things happen.

The breathalyzer for weight

There’s one type of bad-for-you breath the nose can’t detect — increased amounts of odorless methane and odorless hydrogen that overweight people exhale. It takes lab equipment to sniff out a newly identified culprit in the battle of the bulge: an overgrowth of Methanobrevibacter smithii, a bacterium inside your guts that releases those gasses as it munches every iota of nutrition and calories it can from passing food. This voracious little bug breaks down food to “help” you absorb more. That’s why people exhaling the most methane/hydrogen weigh around 15 pounds more than less gassy folks.

What makes Metha smithii run amok? One big cause: processed foods, simple carbs, saturated fats and added sugars and sugar syrups — foods that upset the balance of your gut’s bacteria. The solution: Balance the trillions of good and bad bacteria in your guts by eating lean proteins, 100 percent whole grains, healthy fats (the odd omegas, 3, 7 and 9), veggies and fruits.

Next step? Go for 10,000 a day (a pedometer will help count your steps). And take a daily probiotic. We favor 2 to 4 billion spores of bacillus coagulans. That’ll keep your immune system strong, your digestion moving smoothly and (believe it or not) your brain focused. When your gut bacteria have the right balance, you’ll pass the methane/hydrogen breathalyzer test and continue on your way to a healthy and very alert future.

Banish that double chin

For most folks, a double chin isn’t something to build a reputation on. This submental accumulation of fat can happen to folks who aren’t overweight. That’s because some people simply have a genetic predisposition to deposit profile-building fat below their jawline. For the rest, it comes from loss of muscle and skin tone (associated with aging) or as part of excess body fat — and for those folks, it’s an indication that they’re due for a lifestyle overhaul.

There are medical solutions for a double chin — liposuction, surgery and, now in clinical trials, injections of synthetic bile acid that cause submental fat to be flushed from the area without leaving saggy skin behind. But we favor another approach; it’s not Hollywood-style, but it works.

1. Chin-ercise! Slowly tip head backward. Open your mouth wide; jut your chin out. Hold for a count of 5. Raise your head; relax. Repeat 10-15 times daily.

2. Add 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming).

3. Upgrade your diet to eliminate all saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole. (Make sure to read those food labels; these fat-inducing additives are hidden everywhere.)

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

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