Busting Myths About Walking Exercises

Walking is a very good exercise that can be easily performed in daily life without special tools and can improve basic physical strength by using all muscles of the body. In addition, steady walking has the effect of strengthening the heart function, preventing cardiovascular diseases, and improving mental disorders including depression.

However, some common sense about walking exercise is not true. It’s taken for granted, but it’s wrong. Today, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths and correct them. Since it is an exercise that anyone can do easily and often, it would be better if the proper method was known.

Should I walk at least 10,000 steps a day?

It is often said that it is good to walk 10,000 steps a day. In fact, this is a claim that has no scientific basis. So, where did the standard of 10,000 steps come from? It dates back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. At that time, as public interest in health grew along with the Olympics, a Japanese company called Yamasa launched a pedometer. As part of its marketing strategy, the company named the pedometer “Manpo-kei” (Manpo means 10,000 steps in Japanese) and launched a “Walk 10,000 steps a day” campaign. This is the starting point of the myth that ‘it is good to walk 10,000 views a day’.

If so, how much should you actually walk in a day? I-Min Lee, a professor at Harvard University School of Public Health, compared the number of steps per day and early mortality among women in their 70s in 2019. As a result, the effect of walking exercise increased up to 7,500 steps per day. However, there were no additional health benefits from walking beyond that. Other studies also showed that the effects of walking exercise peaked between 7,000 and 8,000 steps per day. The burden on the goal of ‘10,000 steps a day’ may actually dampen the motivation to walk, so you don’t have to be too burdened to walk 10,000 steps.

Should I endure the pain while walking exercise?

Many people continue to exercise believing that even if they have pain, their body will adapt if they endure it. But pain basically means that something is wrong with the body. Walking is no exception. Moreover, it may be a symptom of a hidden disease, so the cause needs to be identified.

For example, if you have severe back pain while walking, spinal stenosis may be the cause. Knee pain can appear from a variety of causes, such as osteochondrosis of the knee and osteoarthritis. Pain in the calf may be due to peripheral blood vessels. On the other hand, if the sole of the foot hurts even after walking for a short time, you may have plantar fasciitis. If you have muscle pain that appears temporarily when you walk and gets better when you rest, you can solve it by adjusting the amount of exercise. However, if the frequency and intensity of pain increase, it is best to see a doctor.

Should I not walk if I have osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis refers to a disease in which the synovial membrane surrounding the joint becomes inflamed or the cartilage is damaged. If there is pain, there is a high possibility that there is already damage to the cartilage. At this time, you should avoid activities that put strain on your knees, such as kneeling, squatting, cross-legged, jumping, walking with a heavy object, or climbing excessively. Excessive walking is also one of the behaviors to be avoided.

However, light walking exercise is also good exercise for degenerative arthritis. This is because strengthening the muscles around the joints can help improve symptoms. In addition, strength training that does not put too much strain on the joints, such as swimming, can help prevent the progression of osteoarthritis.

Will my calves thicken if I walk a lot?

Even those who know that walking is good for exercise are worried that the calves might become thicker. In particular, it is a question that many people interested in beauty are curious about. In conclusion, if you actually start walking, which you normally don’t do, your calves may look thicker. However, there is no need to worry too much because this is a temporary phenomenon that occurs due to using more muscles than usual. Rather, a steady walking exercise strengthens the muscles of the legs and improves blood circulation, which can also be expected to improve the appearance.

Can walking backwards prevent dementia?

You can often see people walking backwards on the neighborhood promenade. A person who walks backwards like this needs to use muscles that are not normally used, and requires concentration at every step. That’s why some say that walking backwards helps prevent dementia. Unfortunately, walking backwards and dementia prevention are not actually related. However, the effect of adding a little fun to the walking exercise, which can be boring, can be expected. Additionally, don’t forget to put the safety of others and yourself first when walking backwards.

Isn’t walking as effective a workout as running?

In general, it is thought that running is more effective than walking and beneficial to health. However, there are studies that show that this is not the case. Dr. Paul Williams of the Lawrence Berkeley Institute in the U.S. announced the results of a study on the effects of walking and running on chronic diseases for 6 years with 49,000 people in 2013. The study found that running lowered the risk of hypertension by 4.2%, hypercholesterolemia by 4.3%, diabetes by 12.1% and coronary artery disease by 4.5%. On the other hand, walking reduced the risk of hypertension by 7.2%, hypercholesterolemia by 7%, diabetes by 12.3%, and coronary artery disease by 9.3%. As a result, it can be said that walking has as much health improvement effect as running.

How to walk properly

Today, we looked at various myths about walking like this. Finally, let’s find out the correct posture for walking exercise. First, correct walking starts with straightening the muscles of the back, raising the neck, and pulling the chin slightly to look forward. Then relax your shoulders and arms, avoiding your lower belly and buttocks.1 Relax your shoulders and arms. On the other hand, give them moderate tension so that your lower belly and hips don’t sag. When walking, your feet should touch the ground in the order of the heel, sole of the foot, and the front of the foot, and naturally swing your arms back and forth according to your stride length.

Walking exercise seems easy at first glance, but you can enjoy its effects properly only if you follow the basics. From correcting myths about walking to introducing the right way to walk, today’s article will help you practice the right walking exercise.

4 thoughts on “Busting Myths About Walking Exercises”

  1. A very informative article. Would you tell us what it means to “…relax your shoulders and arms, avoiding your lower belly and buttocks”? Does this mean one should not relax one’s belly and buttocks?

    1. Thanks for your comment. Here’s what that sentence actually means: “Relax your shoulders and arms. On the other hand, give them moderate tension so that your lower belly and hips don’t sag.” Since this sentence is a translation of what I wrote in Korean, it may contain awkward expressions. If you still need improvement, don’t hesitate to give me advice. Thank you.

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