Weekly Wellness: The Many Myths about Walking

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COLUMBIA - When it comes to exercise, walking doesn’t always get the respect it deserves — and it’s time that changed. Before buying into the idea that walking isn’t a worthwhile workout, learn the truth behind these three common walking myths.

Myth 1: 10,000 steps per day is the ideal goal.

There is a great feeling of accomplishment when your fitness tracker buzzes to signal you hit 10,000 steps. While there are studies that show walking 10,000 steps per day is associated with lower blood pressure and improved glucose tolerance, the idea of walking the equivalent of five miles per day could feel overwhelming to new exercisers.

As we have discussed many times before, the recommended amount of exercise for all of us is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. So if 10,000 steps doesn’t seem attainable, make your goal the 150 minutes instead!

Myth 2: Walking doesn't help with weight loss.

A leisurely stroll down the street isn’t exactly going to cut it (especially if you are truly trying to lose weight). But walking CAN and WILL help with weight loss. If you are just getting started with your workout routine, walking is enough. Do what you can do. If you need more than a basic walking routine, pick up your pace and/or add interval training to your walks.

In one small study, researchers at the University of Virginia found that overweight women who logged three 30-minute, high-intensity walks and two moderately-paced walks per week for 12 weeks lost six times more belly fat than women who went for a slow stroll five days per week. A second study found that varying speed burned up to 20 percent more calories than maintaining the same pace.

What would a HIIT walking routine look like? After a 5-minute warmup walk at a slow pace, walk at a brisk pace for 30 seconds and then a regular pace for 4 minutes. Repeat the interval four times. End with a 5-minute cooldown walk.

Myth 3: Walking is only for those who can't run.

SUCH A MYTH! I’ve run 5 full marathons and over twice as many half-marathons. And I walk ALL the time. I love walking! And I can run.

A study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found rates of hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes were lower for regular walkers than runners.

Get out there and get to walking! Focus on your distance, duration and/or calorie expenditure. And reward yourself for your milestones achieved. Keep yourself motivated and have fun!