February 11, 1997


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BERKELEY, CA —The National Runners' Health Study, which follows 55,000 runners, has spawned a companion study. Focusing on walkers, this new study will investigate the benefits of walking as well as allow scientists to compare the medical benefits of walking and running.

Researchers at Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) launched the National Runners' Health Study in 1991 to determine whether running harder and faster is beneficial. A succession of findings, among them those published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, document a range of benefits from prolonged, vigorous exercise.

Now, Berkeley Lab scientists are extending their research to walking. Through a collaboration with Walking magazine, they are seeking to enroll 55,000 men and women who walk as their principal form of recreation in an ongoing study of how walking affects their health.

Berkeley Lab's Paul Williams, who heads these studies, says walkers enrolled in the new National Walkers' Health Study will be contacted every five years to assess their medical health.

Says Williams, "We'll investigate just how far, how fast, and how often a person must walk to achieve the maximum benefits. We really don't know the answers to those questions. Another area that we'll investigate is whether walkers have the same low risk of heart disease and cancer as runners with less risk of injuries."

The key step in launching the walkers' study is contacting walkers. Recruitment is typically among a study's most difficult and costly components. Walking magazine is among the organizations that has assisted in this recruitment effort.

Said Mark Fenton, the magazine's editor at large, "Walking is already the most popular exercise. Walking magazine is committed to encouraging the nation to become healthier through physical activity. By participating in this survey, our readers could ultimately contribute to the health of all Americans."

Individuals who want to apply to participate in the study can go directly to the National Walkers' Study website.  Or, they can write Dr. Paul Williams, National Walkers' Health Study, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Building 934, Berkeley, CA 94720. Include your name and address and ask for a copy of the questionnaire for the National Walkers' Health Study. Walking clubs are invited to send for questionnaires. Williams says that all information received will be held in strict confidence.

Berkeley Lab conducts unclassified scientific research for the U.S. Department of Energy. It is located in Berkeley, California and is managed by the University of California.

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