Week 20: Pounding the Pavement

Taking more steps can mean losing pounds: Nutritionist Rovenia Brock explains the physical and mental benefits of walking.

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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS AND NOTES.

On this week's fitness challenge, a low-impact exercise anyone can do: walking.

(Soundbite of song, Walk This Way)

GORDON: NPR's Farai Chideya laced up her shoes and hit the streets of New York and Los Angeles to see if her feet were made for walking. Plus, NEWS AND NOTES nutritionist Rovenia Brock explains why walking is both good for the mind and the body.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

Okay, so I've got my pedometer on. I'm ready to go.

(Soundbite of song, Staying Alive)

CHIDEYA: Okay, it's been 33 minutes since I've left the house. And I've gone about half a mile. All right, I'm getting ready to pass the Radio City Music Hall. What is amazing is that in the same way that taking the subway is faster than taking a cab, sometimes walking is the fastest thing of all. Because right now, the traffic is bananas.

(Soundbite of song, I'm Walking)

Mr. FATS DOMINO (Musician): (Singing) I'm walking. Yes indeed, and I'm talking…

CHIDEYA: Okay. I went and I had a pedicure at 56th and 6th, and now I need to check into a hotel. I could try to take a bus, but the traffic looks awful, so I'm just going to walk. And probably, that is going to be eight blocks downtown and about three really long blocks cross-town. So I'm off again.

(Soundbite of song, I'm Walking)

Mr. DOMINO: (Singing) I'm walking. Yes indeed, and I'm talking…

CHIDEYA: Well, I've reached my destination - or at least my way station. And let me check and see how many miles I have walked today. Two and a half miles so far, not even trying to get any exercise - just trying to get some place.

Okay, I am approaching the Four Times Square building, which is my final destination for the night before I go to bed. I am tired, I am sweaty, and I have gone almost four miles, just trying to get from A to B to C to D.

Okay, back in the hotel room - low and behold, I have walked 4 and a half miles in what is a fairly typical day in New York. So let's see what happens when I try the same thing in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

CHIDEYA: So I'm going to set out for my house right now, and of course the first thing I do as an Angelino is - I'm going to get in my car.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

CHIDEYA: You know what? Now that I've gotten in my car, let me check my pedometer and see exactly how far I've gone. Ooh, .07 miles. That's not a New York commute.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

CHIDEYA: All righty, I just got to the campus of the University of Southern California, and so far today I have walked .45 miles. I think in New York - by the time it was lunchtime - I had already walked a couple of miles. I will be walking a little bit on the campus, so we'll see how well I do.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

Mr. MARK KNOPFLER (Lead singer, Dire Straits): (Singing) They do the walk, do the walk of life.

CHIDEYA: Now I'm coming up on my gym after more driving, and I have gone 2.2 miles today.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

CHIDEYA: Okay, I'm back home from the gym. Let us check the final tally for walking in Los Angeles - 2.61 miles. I think that this is actually probably pretty high for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Two point six miles versus nearly 5 miles for New York City. It makes a difference in your weight and your calories.

(Soundbite of song, Walk of Life)

Mr. KNOPFLER: (Singing) Dedication, devotion. They're turning all the nighttime into the day. The song about the sweet loving…

CHIDEYA: Now NEWS AND NOTES nutritionist Rovenia Brock is back to talk more about more about the benefits of walking and how much exercise you can get just in a course of your day.

Hi, Dr. Ro.

Dr. ROVENIA BROCK (Nutritionist): Hi, it's great to be with you as always.

CHIDEYA: So, I walked twice as far in New York as I did in L.A. And I have to say that one of the things that I think made me gain weight was when I moved from New York to California and I got into the car culture. Does the exercise you get from walking on a daily basis make a difference?

Dr. BROCK: I think it makes a difference in your endurance. It makes a difference in your cardiovascular system overall. It may not make a difference - in fact, rarely does in weight loss. And the reason is because pace counts. And so your 4 1/2 miles versus your 2.6 miles from New York to L.A. - if you're walking leisurely, not the same thing as taking a brisk walk and being very intentional in your exercise plan.

CHIDEYA: So, why would someone, for example, who has the ability to do a more strenuous exercise like jogging, like weight lifting also want to incorporate walking into their workout?

Dr. BROCK: Well, you know Farai, walking - you can achieve the same results with walking that you would with running or jogging. For example, a woman who walks three miles per hour for 30 minutes burns about 119 calories. That same woman, covering the same amount of ground at 4 1/2 miles per hour will burn a 153 calories.

So brisk walking at a pace that makes it hard for you to carry on a conversation while walking with a partner is a obviously the better way to lose weight and to achieve total physical fitness. The extra benefit is that you can burn the same amount of calories that you would if you were jogging, but you don't have to put the stress on your knees and on your joints that would come with - and on your whole body, as a matter of fact, that would come with running.

CHIDEYA: Well Dr. Ro, it's great to talk with you again. And thanks as always for all the healthy tips.

Dr. BROCK: It's always a pleasure.

GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya with NEWS AND NOTES Nutritionist Rovenia Brock, author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets To Living Healthy. On the next fitness challenge, Dr. Ro will be back with some expert advice on why it takes more than just exercise to drop the extra pounds and get healthy.

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