6 Walking Myths Nobody Should Believe

What's the Truth About These Walking Beliefs?

Walking with Weights - Not Recommended
Walking with Weights - Not Recommended. Susan Chiang/E+/Getty Images

Walking has its share of myths and truisms that may or may not be true. Let's do a little myth busting.

1. Walking fast or running burns more calories per mile than walking at a moderate or easy pace.

Speed has only a small effect on the calories burned per mile. If you walk briskly for a mile or if you run a mile, you burn about the same calories.

Research on the metabolic equivalents (MET) of various activities rates each activity by calories per kilogram per hour.

Just sitting quietly burns 1 MET. If you weigh 150 pounds, that is 68 calories per hour.

A runner and a fast walker, both at a speed of 12 minutes per mile or 5 miles per hour, achieve the exact same 8 MET. Their calories per mile and calories per hour are identical. Walking at various speeds burns between 2 to 8 MET. Running at various speeds burns 8 to 18 MET.

That sounds like a big difference, but it is mostly due to covering more distance in the same time. Calories burned per mile instead depends mostly on your weight -- you burn more if you weigh more. The wisest way to burn more calories is to walk or run further, rather than to add weight. If you walk fast or run, you go further in less time.

You burn more calories in a mile if you use the racewalking technique, as it uses more muscles than regular walking. Very slow walking also burns a few more calories per mile, as you lose your momentum and your walking is less efficient.


Calories Burned Walking
More: Running vs. Walking Calories

2. Walking shoes are better than running shoes

While some well-designed walking shoes are on the market, there are many shoes labeled as walking shoes which are heavy, stiff, overly cushioned and not acceptable for walking.

Many walkers do well wearing running shoes that are flexible, have a low heel, and are properly fit for their walking style.

3. Walking does you no good, you need to exercise harder.

Study after study shows that walking 30 to 60 minutes a day at a moderate pace reduces major health risks substantially.

Intense exercise has its own appeal, especially to competitive-type people. But an emphasis on sweaty, intense exercise turns off many people, who then stay sedentary and increase their health risks.

Walking is a great lifelong exercise that most people can do, and keep doing their entire lives.
Walking: The Miracle Cure

4. You need to drink lots and lots and lots of water each day, especially while walking.

The new guideline for endurance exercise is "Drink when thirsty." While it may be true that many people don't drink enough, a new problem is being seen- - those who are drinking too much water and getting hyponatremia (low blood salt).

Don't go overboard.

  • An hour before you walk, drink a tall glass of water.
  • While walking drink about a cup of water (6 to 8 ounces) every half hour, or more often if you are thirsty.
  • If you are walking for more than 2 hours, you should then begin drinking a sports drink that replaces lost body salt (electrolytes). Drink when thirsty.
  • Weigh yourself immediately before and after a long walk. If you gained weight, you were drinking too much. If you lost weight, you weren't drinking enough.

Drinking Guidelines for Walkers

5. Use arm weights, and ankle  weights, or weighted shoes to powerwalk.

Every physical therapist I have spoken to strongly recommends against walking with weights on your wrists, ankles, or wearing heavy shoes. You risk an injury using them while walking.

To build your upper body strength, use weights for a few minutes after you walk to do an upper body routine while standing or sitting. Fitness walking poles are a good way to tone your upper body while walking, as well as to relieve strain on your hips, knees, and ankles.
Walking Products I Don't Recommend

6. Anybody can walk or run a marathon with just 3 to 6 months of training.

It is important to have a fitness base before you begin marathon training. You should already be walking regularly for distances of 3 to 4 miles within the week and 6 to 8 miles on the weekend before you begin marathon training.

If you are an absolute beginner, think 9 months to a year ahead for a marathon goal. For this year, set a goal of doing a half-marathon instead.

While some people do complete a marathon with just 3 to 6 months of training, they risk injury during training by doing too much too fast. Marathon directors are seeing the results of these hurry-up programs -- slow, injured runners and walkers and a larger drop-out rate.

Next: 8 More Walking Shoe Myths

Sources:

AINSWORTH BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, Irwin ML, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, O'Brien WL, Bassett DR Jr, Schmitz KH, Emplaincourt PO, Jacobs DR Jr, Leon AS. "Compendium of Physical Activities: An update of activity codes and MET intensities." Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32 (Suppl):S498-S516.

Michael F. Leitzmann, MD, DrPH; Yikyung Park, ScD; Aaron Blair, PhD; Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD; Traci Mouw, MPH; Albert R. Hollenbeck, PhD; Arthur Schatzkin, MD, DrPH. "Physical Activity Recommendations and Decreased Risk of Mortality." ARCH INTERN MED. VOL 167 (NO. 22), DEC 10/24, 2007.

Lewis G. Maharam, MD.FACSM (chair),Tamara Hew DPM, Arthur Siegel MD, Marv Adner, MD, Bruce Adams, MD and Pedro Pujol, MD, FACSM. "IMMDA’s Revised Fluid Recommendations for Runners and Walkers." IMMDA. 6 May 2006.

Tamara Hew-Butler, DPM, Joseph G. Verbalis, MD,w and Timothy D. Noakes, MBChB, MD, DSc, "Updated Fluid Recommendation: Position Statement From the International Marathon Medical Directors Association (IMMDA)," Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006;16:283–292).

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