There are people running around saying that people who are running around may not have to.

Now if running is what you're into, of course that's probably fine, so long as you've gotten into it gradually and your doctor knows what you're doing.

But for lots of the rest of us who can't run or shouldn't run or just plain don't feel like running, there's something else.

It's walking.

The gasoling situation isn't responsible for the new walking craze, but on the other hand you don't have to stand in line to rev up for a quick little one-step, two-step around the block.

Walking, say the experts, can have all the advantages of jogging or funning or jumping or a workout in the gym. It may take a little longer to get you into shape, but there are lots of advantages.

And nearly everyone is agreed nowadays that any form of exercise is better than none.

Specialists engaged in the national pursuits of Fit and Trim as the great American ideals are fining more and more that if diet is good, exercise is even better - and diet and exercise together are simply sensational.

It is, in fact, generally accepted that a diet and exercise program will increase the rate of weight loss by at least 10 percent.

Even Weight Watchers, that giant of commercial weight-loss programs and long an advocate of the theory that weight loss is principally a product of diet, has now adopted a program called PEPSTEP, which utilizes walking as a major optional exercise.

What may strengthen one heart may strain another, so there are a lot of good reasons for a lot of people to hold their exercise to less strenuous levels: Age, arthritis, esthetics or even a touch of laziness are perfectly rational and acceptable reasons.

Walking can be the answer.

The American Heart Association applauds the increased interest in exercise, noting that there is some scientific evidence that the too-sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart and circulatory problems. But its spokesmen caution that sudden strenuous exertion - like shoverling snow or a heavy tennis game when you're out of shape - can sometimes provoke heart attacks in people who had appeared perfectly healthy. Tony Englert, associate executive director of the association, urges anyone considering embarking on an exercise program to consult a physician first.

But, says the Heart Association, "you can't go wrong, at least, by walking," as long as you don't overdo and work up to a "brisk" pace in gradual steps.

The people from Scholl's, Inc., the Dr. Scholl folkds whose interest in feet and footcare is longstanding and abiding, have hired themselves a foot-fitness consultant, who has been hot-footing it around the country trying to keep everybody on their toes.

Maurita Robarge, Scholl consultant and a professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, has devised a series of foot and leg exercises which, of course, Scholl's hopes will sell sandals. But they are also useful for runners, joggers and, yes, walkers, helping transform, for example, a walk to the grocery store into a parcour for fitness.

Some of her suggestions:

Try a high kick every few steps. Okay, we know you're not Suzanne Farrell or Mikhail Baryshnikov, but got as high as you can. Robarge holds her arm out a little higher than her head and touches her toe to her hand, first one arm then, a few steps later, the other.

Find a hill to climb.

Play follow the leader with child, spouse or friend.

Swing around a lamppost.

Skip or hop over a every crack - remember "Step-on-a-crack-and-break-your-mother's-back?" If you think you'll look silly, remember those joggers.

We'd add one other: Take a walk with a big and not-too-well-trained dog on a leash and just see how many muscles you exercise when he wants to chase that cat. . . .

Finally, in addition to the 210 calories you burn if you walk three miles in an hour, here are some extras you get with walking that running or jogging just won't provide:

The Nature Syndrome - Commune with birds, flowers, trees squirrels. You never notice these things if you run by too fast.

The Romance Effect - Hold hands with someone nice while you walk.

The Yenta Effect - You'd be amazed how much good gossip you can pick up just walking around the neighborhood. . . .

The main thing: Don't stand still. The life that passes you by may be your own.