By Health Web | October 23, 2019
Walking as an exercise needs to be understood and respected. It is time to dismiss the commonly held idea around walking not being a worthwhile workout. Here we present the truth about three walking for exercise myths.
Myth #1: 10,000 Steps is the Holy Grail
“Wow, I’ve done it” is a common thought and produces a feeling of achievement when your fitness tracker signals you have hit the 10,000 step target. Perhaps this often used walking target is really only an arbitrary number when it comes to health benefits.
At Columbia University, Carol Ewing Garber, PhD, professor of movement sciences, believes the 10,000 step goal requires some rethinking. “[Walking 10,000 steps] will result in health benefits,” Garber says. “But it should be noted that … there is benefit even with small amounts of walking and the benefits increase with the more steps you walk each day.”
Garber proposes that we change our goal setting thinking from how many steps we’ve walked in a day to how much moderate intensity exercise we do each week.
Based on research, Garber suggests that we aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This moderate physical activity approach is thought to be less overwhelming to new exercisers. However, moderate intensity exercise will continue to be effective in lowering blood pressure and improving glucose tolerance.
Research published in the British Medical Journal has shown that even when a step count is minimal, walking an additional 2000 steps per day will assist to lower body mass index and boost insulin sensitivity.
Myth #2: Walking Doesn’t Help With Weight Loss
A gentle stroll is certainly not going to do the work required for weight loss. However, a stroll is still better than lounging around watching soapy dramas from a burning calories point of view. Leslie Sansone, fitness expert and well known for creating Walk at Home Workouts, has the evidence to support her claim: “Walking works for weight loss!”.
In a research study at the University of Virginia, overweight women lost more belly fat over a 12 week period when they did the following combination:
- Three, 30 minute high intensity walks per week.
- Two moderately paced walks per week.
When looking at the calories burnt when walking, a second study showed that 20% more calories were burnt by varying the speed of walking compared to maintaining the same pace.
Sansone recommends incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your walking program. This means a slow paced 5-minute walk to warm up, then 30-seconds of brisk paced walking. To complete this interval, you do 4-minutes of regular paced walking. The interval is repeated four times. You finish with a 5-minute slow paced walk to cool down.
The HIIT walking program assists you with living a long and healthy life.
Myth #3: Walking is Only For Those Who Can’t Run
For many people new to exercise or for those recovering from an injury, walking is an excellent “gateway exercise”. Once a level of stamina and cardiovascular fitness is achieved, walkers can transition to running.
However, not all walkers want to run — and that is fine.
Garber says, “Walking is a good exercise for everyone”.
A study looking at high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, were shown to be lower in regular walkers compared to runners. This study was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Whilst walking around the block is better than no physical activity, the health benefits of walking are maximised when the walking workout is of sufficient time with added intensity levels. Garber suggests using your fitness tracker to focus on duration, distance or calorie expenditure. Remember whether you walk or run it is the amount of exercise that is important to achieve health benefits.
The words of Sansone sums it up beautifully – “If you start fitness walking today, you will instantly feel better and know you’re doing something good for your body, mind and soul.”