Walking is a great form of exercise for almost everyone. It requires little specialized training, no sport-specific equipment and zero dollars spent on gym memberships. It also can be a significant benefit to your overall health.
We break down some long-lasting myths associated with walking to help you put an exercise routine into motion.
Myth: You have to walk 10,000 steps daily to benefit.
Some people think if you can’t complete 10,000 steps each day, then you won’t get the full benefits of walking. Not true. While a goal of 10,000 steps – the equivalent of about 5 miles for someone with an average stride – is great, it’s unrealistic if you’re just starting a walking routine.
Even if you aren't able to fit in a workout or are unable to cover a great distance at first, taking any opportunity to walk adds up. The American Heart Association (AHA) cites research that shows breaking up 30 minutes brisk walking into 10-to-15-minute installments can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
The AHA recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day to get a significant benefit from the exercise. That translates to 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. But if you’ve been sedentary for a while and those exercise totals seem daunting, don’t worry. Just get started and add a few more minutes of exercise to your goal each day.
Myth: Walking is for people who can’t run.
Walking is an exercise that often inspires people to break a sweat. It helps those who are new to exercise improve their cardiovascular fitness and endurance, and helps others transition to running. However, running is not the be-all and end-all of aerobic exercise.
A study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found lower rates of hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes in regular walkers than in runners. However, while a quick walk around your neighborhood after work is a great start, maximizing the benefits of a walking regimen requires a significant number of strides in your sneakers.
Myth: Walking isn’t an effective exercise for weight loss.
When walking for weight loss, shake up your routine. Mix in some speed walking – still slower than a run – with longer bouts at a slow to moderate pace. Try this: After warming up, walk at a fast pace for 30 seconds and then at your regular pace for 4 minutes. Repeat four to five times and end with a cool down.
Research has found that varying walking speed during a workout can burn up to 20 percent more calories than maintaining a set pace.
Myth: Walking isn’t a strenuous enough exercise to require a water bottle.
Drinking enough fluids is especially important for bariatric patients, as dehydration is a common reason for hospital stays after surgery. To ensure you stay hydrated during walks, you’ll need to plan ahead.
Drink a large glass of water about two hours before you set out on your walk. Then any extra fluid will have time to pass through you before you’re out in nature. And, if you plan to walk for more than 15 minutes, take a water bottle along for the stroll. It’s best practice to drink three to six ounces of water per mile to avoid dehydration.
Myth: You only benefit during the time you are walking.
It's logical to think that an hour of walking only provides an hour of fat and calorie burning. However, walking at a brisk pace can benefit you long after your cool down.
Not only does walking contribute to your fitness levels, it also can improve your balance and coordination, boost your mood and strengthen your bones and muscles. Want to embark on a walking program? We have tips to get you started.