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Walking as sport: Will it ever be as popular as running?

Over the past five or so years, running has overtaken the previous fad sport—badminton—in popularity, and it seems like its star is yet to wane.

Statistics for the sport are sparse, yet as of 2011, over 373,000 Filipinos—children and adults—have participated in running events, according to MoveForMOve.org, as cited in a The Guidon article from 2012.

It stands to reason that by now, six years later, with bigger, more significant events being held, running is the sport du jour, and will continue to be so for quite some time. It has a lot of advantages going for it—it’s easy, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. It’s accessible, and can be practiced almost anywhere. It can be done with buddies, so it is more likely to be sustained than solo pursuits.

With all the attractions of running, I wonder why walking has not caught on as well. I’d imagine it would be even easier to take up. Walking creates less impact on the body than running; it is suitable for people of all ages, especially seniors, who can take it up as their exercise activity; it can be done anywhere, even in places such as malls, whereas one cannot run inside a mall.

Yet there are fewer sport walking than running events on the calendar. Walkathons are still being held, though; in fact, the Philippines holds the world record for largest walkathon, the Iglesia ni Cristo World Wide Walk for the benefit of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan victims held Feb. 15, 2015. But walkathons, by definition, are fundraising or charity events. I’m curious about the status of walking as a sport in the Philippines.

What we usually refer to as ‘walking for exercise’ is active walking. This is done at a brisk pace, for exercise, weight loss, and for fun. Walking at the upper speeds is called power walking or fitwalking, practiced for a training effect.

The competitive version is race walking. The only local guru I’ve come across so far for this sport is Coach Edsel Vengco, who teaches a method called Race-Run-Walk. In his blog, he says that this is a technique he developed “to help runners and walkers improve their performance by integrating race walking and alternating it with running.”

Race walking, an Olympic sport, is more “technical” than running, with certain rules to follow as to stance and form, but the main thing to remember that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. The sport’s judges are responsible for evaluating a race walker’s performance and determining whether these and other rules of the sport have been violated or not.

Another challenging version of walking is Nordic walking, a total-body exercise where poles similar to those used in skiing are used to help balance and propel the body.

It would be great to see race walking and other types of sport walking gain popularity. Perhaps then those who can’t or won’t take up running for whatever reason will engage in this sport that is just as beneficial for wellness and health as running. And maybe we’ll see Filipino race walkers in future Olympic and other international games.

★★★★★

Dr. Ortuoste is a California-based writer. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @gogirlracing and @jennyortuoste, and Instagram: @jensdecember 

Topics: Running , Walking , Badminton , MoveForMOve.org
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