3 Common Walking Myths Busted!
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. “ 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.”
Mid-Back Stretch – Cat Stretch
- Lower into a squat with the hands on the thighs, back arched
- Contract your abdominal muscles. (Try to pull your belly button gently toward your spine.)
- Slowly round your back, pushing it up toward the ceiling.
- Allow your head to drop forward and curl your pelvis under.
- Hold for 10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back.
- Return to the starting position.
- Raise your head up and let your pelvis fall forward as your belly reaches down toward the floor.
- Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat about 5 to 10 times.
Lower Body Warm Up – Air Squats
Before heading off on a walk, run or other sporting activity, air squats are useful to warm the lower and upper body. It is also a useful morning stretch exercise that can be done before rushing out the door to work, or even whilst waiting at the bus stop.
1) Stand comfortably with your arms by your side and your legs shoulder width apart.
2) As you slowly bend your hips and knees to lower you buttocks toward the floor/ground, raise your arms to shoulder level. Keep your knees in line with your feet.
3) Allow your spine to be neutral as you squat with your chest lifted.
4) Once your thighs are level with the floor/ground, reverse the motion and return to standing with arms by your side.
5) Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Brain Training With Neurobics
What is Neurobics?
Neurobics is a new scientific term referring to the selection of tasks that stimulate the brain’s biochemistry. This stimulation has been shown to activate new pathways within and between neural tissue of brain centres. Brain circuits are thereby strengthened or maintained with specific mental exercises that provide mental challenges.
Promoting mental agility and flexibility in everyday life is now accepted as being vital in reducing age-related mental decline, along with lowering rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Our brain needs to be nurtured and stimulated daily with a task that has a mental challenge added to our regular daily activities. The task you choose requires doing something a little different to what you habitually do each day. Therefore neurobics can be done anytime and anywhere in your day’s activities. These brain exercises allow you to be creative and you can use sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, proprioception, emotions and feelings. It does not matter whether you are at home, at work or at leisure.
Some examples to get you thinking are:
Select clothes to wear based on touch versus colour.
Write a short sentence or draw a picture using your other hand.
Brush your hair or teeth using your non-dominant hand.
Take up a new hobby that requires several senses and no routine thinking.
Change your usual walking path and mentally note differences that you see.
Travel to a different shop, market, pharmacy, butcher or bakery. Challenge yourself by selecting something different to what you would normally buy and learn about what you have chosen.
Cook a different food to what you would normally eat or select something different for breakfast or lunch. Use your senses in these new experiences.
Choose a different park to sit in, close your eyes and sense what is around you by listening, smelling and feeling the experience. Take that experience with you and recall it later in the day.
Arriving home at the front door with keys in hand, close your eyes and proceed to unlock the door and step inside.
As you can see these exercises are very different to doing a crossword, word puzzles or Sudoku, which have become routine mental activities for many people. Because of the routine nature of these logic puzzles there occurs less brain stimulation when compared with new creative tasks.
It’s time to take up the challenge and create brain training tasks that are fun and so good for you.
Is your baby visible and kissable when babywearing?
Slings are a great way to carry your baby – especially in the first 3 months when they love to have you close. It is really important to be aware that not all slings are safe as there have been instances where babies have suffocated. This may be because the baby was not yet old enough to move out of dangerous positions that can block their airways. You need to be able to see your baby’s face at all times and they need to be close enough to give them a smooch. They need to be worn tightly with their chin off their chest, and in an upright position.
Certain slings have been recently found to be unsafe so avoid choosing a sling that looks like a pouch or a bag as they can cover the baby’s face and increase the risk of suffocation. Always choose a sling that comes with detailed instructions on how to use it. Premature and low birth weight babies and those with respiratory problems are at an increased risk so check with your GP or paediatrician first if it is safe to carry them.
At Physiotherapy for Women our Physiotherapists are members of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. The Manduca baby carrier made from organic cotton has been endorsed by this association, because it is seen as an optimal carrier providing safety and security for babies.
Further reading on the Manduca baby carrier and its benefits and Healthy Hips Babywearing can be read by clicking on:
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a technique used to build an awareness of the present moment and of what our thoughts and body responses are without judgement. As busy women we are often presented with multiple tasks to just get through the day. It can be difficult to switch off the inner voice of all the things we need to accomplish. This constant state of “being on the go” can lead to chronic stress states where our body is tight, tense and achy, breathing is shallow, our digestion is poor and our immune and hormonal systems are out of balance. Mindfulness can help you relax and to calm bodily stress responses.
How do I develop mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be developed through being aware of the present moment. You may do this through deep breathing, carrying out a mental scan of your body and letting go of tension, being aware of your thoughts or through mindful movement tasks. It is important to do this in a non-judgemental way and to be kind to yourself. Realise the stress responses in our body are normal. The increased heart rate, muscular tension, quick breathing and high mental alertness or anxiety (the “flight or fight” response) are designed for dangerous situations where we need to escape or fight. In today’s society stress is present frequently or often constantly and we do not usually need to fight or flight, so we have no release of this stress response. Recognising this stress response and not labelling it as good or bad but just a normal bodily reaction can help, getting stressed about being stressed is not helpful! The next step is to perform some mindfulness tasks or movements and to use thought processes that help us let go of the tension and to cope with and release our bodies stress response. Recognising that time to relax and using mindfulness is an important part of your day is valuable for better health. Many women lead such busy lives that they think relaxation is too difficult to fit in or find it too boring. Mindfulness may feel difficult or boring in the beginning but it gets easier with practice and your body and mind will thank you for it if you persist. Sometimes you need the help of a professional in mindfulness and/or meditation to get you on your way.
What can mindfulness be used for?
Mindfulness can be used with our treatments at Physiotherapy for Women to manage pain and to ease tension. You may also notice it will help with depression, anxiety, digestion and other chronic illnesses.
How does it work?
Evidence is showing that with regular mindfulness our nervous system changes. The “flight or fight” response is decreased and the “rest and digest” state is increased allowing for better bodily repair and for the mind to quieten (helpful to get to sleep!). Also the parts of the brain responsible for emotional balance, fear responses, homeostasis (body regulation) and empathy make positive changes on MRI. The hormonal system in the brain are also better balanced which helps you improve your health related behaviours. During your consultation our physiotherapists can help with your breathing patterns and encourage mindfulness behaviour for you at home to enhance your healing process.