When we refer to jogging, it is often about putting on shoes and going around the park or neighbourhood to sweat it out.
Jogging is usually done at a slower, gentler pace, while running is performed at a much faster pace. Anything faster than eight to 11 km/hour would be classified as running.
But slow jogging?
It is a form of exercise slower than jogging, and perhaps slower than the average walking speed.
Suggested by Prof Hiroaki Tanaka of Fukuoka University, Japan, this concept is based on very slow running, at a pace of about three to five km/hour. His efficient training method, a result of many years of research, helped him complete a marathon in 2:38:50 at the age of 50.
Referred to as Japan’s running guru, the legendary scientist has inspired runners all over his country, from elite long-distance runners to the elderly and those suffering from lifestyle diseases, to slow down and jog with a smile for a healthy body and mind.
The author of Slow Jogging: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Have Fun with Science-Based, Natural Running managed to reverse his type 2 diabetes using this form of exercise.
“Slow jogging is not just about the pace – it’s also an injury-free running technique, allowing safe beginning and efficient progress. It’s the natural and gentle forefoot landing and small steps at high cadency. The key to slow jogging is what we call niko niko pace. In Japanese, niko niko means ‘smile’.
"Unlike traditional training that requires concentration and effort, slow jogging is more like taking a walk, at the intensity light enough to enjoy conversation, or if you’re by yourself, to just smile. For most beginners it means jogging at a walking pace,” he writes.
A number of running injuries are a result of landing on the heels, which causes a lot of pressure to the joints.
Research carried out in Japan revealed that slow jogging has positive effects on metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. It also increases HDL (good) cholesterol in those doing 180 minutes of slow jogging per week.
If you’re an avid runner, then it would be a test of patience (and ego) to run at such a slow pace. Runners get a high from regular running and completing marathons. Slow jogging doesn’t give you that adrenalin kick.
But studies show that our body releases a marijuana-like substance called endocannabinoids, which increases the sensation of pleasure and neutralises pain. Researchers compared the release of this substance in people walking, slow jogging, medium-pace jogging and running.
They found that walking didn’t lead to endocannabinoids production; slow jogging resulted in a remarkable levels; and medium-pace jogging led to a slight increase. Meanwhile, running didn’t induce endocannabinoids production at all.
“When we run at faster paces, we tap more strongly into the body’s fight and flight response, which leads to the release of other hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
“The effect of the two can be compared to the difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ high – one is long, pleasant and has no long-term side-effects, whereas the other is an abrupt stimulus that leaves you deflated and tired once it wears off,” says Prof Tanaka, who has been researching the method since the 1970s.
Experienced runners might pooh-pooh the concept, but in reality, slow jogging is not intended for this group of people, who may consider this method as a post-recovery phase.
Rather, it is aimed at those who do not like to get tired or sweaty, and those who want to lose weight healthily.
According to the author, if you have no time to run for 30 minutes a day, it’s fine. You can break up the time, for example, you just need to run for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes for lunch and 10 minutes after returning home.
It is sometimes advised for people as a form of rehabilitation after injuries.
Slow jogging may also help one to learn proper running techniques. It’s easier to learn how to strike the foot on the ground properly when we don’t hurry, and are not concerned with speed.
The key to success is to keep your niko niko pace, and this can be different for different individuals. Listen to your body. If you are out of breath and not able to have a conversation, you should slow down – it’s as simple as that.
Give it a try – slow down, admire the surrounding natural beauty and enjoy the jog. After all, what’s the rush?