12 top walking myths debunked: Walking IS effective & 11 more!

Walking is a great form of exercise for all ages and fitness levels. However, there are many myths surrounding walking for fitness that prevent people from taking that first step toward better health. If you’ve been told that walking isn’t really exercise or walking can’t help you lose weight, it’s time to debunk these and 10 other common myths and uncover the truth about walking for fitness!

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12 Common Walking Myths Debunked!

There are many reasons myths are created and repeated. Here are 12 myths about walking that are repeated often but definitely aren’t true.

Myth 1: You have to reach 10,000 steps a day to see benefits.

Senior man walking with cane and grandson
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Walking 10,000 steps is a distance of a little less than 5 miles depending on your stride length. 10,000 steps is a great long-term goal, but it’s not necessarily a realistic expectation for a beginning walker. The truth is any amount of walking is better than none, and you can get amazing health benefits at much lower step goals. Even light activity was correlated with a lower risk of death! For the best health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (like brisk walking) a week, which is easily broken into smaller time chunks. That doesn’t necessarily get you 10,000 steps, but that’s ok!

A study of over 16,000 older women found that increasing your steps from 2,700 daily to 4,400 daily cut their risk of death by over 40%! Set the right step goal for you and get as active as you can!

Myth 2: Walking won’t help you lose weight.

Athletic woman walking for fitness in park
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Walking burns calories, which helps you lose weight. In fact, walking can burn 200-300 calories per hour depending on your weight and walking speed. Additionally, walking builds muscle mass which improves your metabolism helping you keep weight off.

Walking can be a core component of any weight loss or weight maintenance program. That doesn’t mean that walking is all you need to lose weight – a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating plan are very important too! But 200+ calories burned per hour can’t be ignored! Getting active helps you in many other ways as well, so even if weight loss isn’t your goal your body will still thank you for walking more.

Myth 3: You have to complete a pre-set walking workout.

Senior couple walking with groceries
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Many people think you have to walk a full, dedicated 30-minute or 60-minute walk to see results and if that’s not possible, then they might as well not walk. Those little walks really do add up! Three 10 minute sessions are as effective as walking for 30 minutes even if you’re still dressed for the office. Taking a 5-minute walk every hour can help to undo an hour of sitting. That’s especially important for office workers who spend most of their day sitting down.

Myth 4: Walking isn’t as effective as jogging.

Walkers with walking poles in park
Jacek Chabraszewski / Shutterstock

Walking can be better than jogging, especially for those who can’t tolerate impact. Walking may result in fewer injuries, which means you can do it every day. Making walking a daily habit makes it more likely you’ll participate for longer periods of time. Most importantly, walking at a speed of 4.5 mph can burn the same amount of calories as jogging at the same speed, which means both exercises provide equal benefits.

Walking is incredibly versatile! You can also make your walks more intense without necessarily jogging, by using incline walking, walking stairs or using intervals to burn more calories. Jogging is great too, so you shouldn’t think that walking is better than jogging or vice versa. Both a short jog or a long walk can be great for fitness!

Myth 5: You need to do intervals to see results.

Sporty woman jogging uphill
Undrey / Shutterstock

Intervals can help you burn calories faster, but they aren’t required for weight loss or health benefits. Walking at a sustained pace effectively burns calories, and walkers who don’t like intervals are more likely to skip regular workouts when pressured to do them.

The most important thing you can do is get out and walk at whatever pace works for you. As we mentioned, walking is incredibly versatile! Even leisurely walking can improve your mood, help you get in touch with nature, and help you get fit while getting active!

Myth 6: Walking benefits only last while you’re walking.

Casual businessman smiling while doing work
Pressmaster / Shutterstock

After all types of exercise, your body continues to burn calories as you cool down and recover from activity. This means you’re still burning calories at an elevated rate after you’ve finished walking. To keep your metabolism high after walks, try some basic bodyweight strength exercises during breaks in your walk, or add intervals during your walk.

The mood and creativity benefits of walking also continue on well after walking ends. If you’re feeling stressed or need inspiration, try a 10-15 minute walk. You may find you’re inspired for an hour or longer!

Myth 7: Walking is bad for your joints.

Senior couple walking in park
Lordn / Shutterstock

People with arthritis and joint damage are often advised to rest and take care to reduce the impact on their joints. While rest is important to allow injuries to heal, exercise helps to improve flexibility and strength, both of which reduce pain. Getting moving helps to lubricate and exercise your joints and the less you move, the harder it can be to get started. Improper form and unsupportive shoes are the biggest culprits when joint pain is experienced from walking.

Make sure to maintain good form and posture while walking to reduce the risk of injury. And if you are feeling pain or soreness, go for lower impact walks, reduce your walking speed and skip the stairs, incline walking or other higher impact exercises.

Myth 8: Walking is just for beginners.

Woman power walking for fitness near the ocean
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Walking is a worthy exercise for all levels of fitness. Studies have even shown walking to produce similar cardiovascular benefits to running over a six-year period. Additionally, walking can often be enjoyed for longer periods of time. More experienced walkers can get more intense in a variety of ways, like walking hills, interval training or longer walks. Even serious athletes can burn more calories and get more active by walking more. Walking is also fun!

Myth 9: You’ll be prepared for a marathon in a few months.

Marathon runners with a focus on their feet
Pavel1964 / Shutterstock

Myths surrounding exercise work both ways and some can be dangerous. If you’re a beginner, extreme goals can lead to overtraining which often results in injury. Even if you’d like to hit a 10,000 step goal someday, be realistic and start with a lower goal before building up your endurance and fitness. Don’t compare yourself to others – walking is really a competition with yourself to see how active you can get while staying happy and healthy!

Myth 10: Walking leads to bulky calves.

Walking shoes on a footpath closeup
KieferPix / Shutterstock

Some people avoid regular walking because they don’t want to end up with bulging muscles. While walking helps build lean muscles and might produce definition in calf muscles, you’d need more strenuous exercise to bulk up. Heavy resistance is needed to build large muscles, which is why bodybuilders spend so much time weight training at the gym.

There’s a subset of this myth that says that women should avoid exercise or they’ll “bulk up” and get a masculine-looking body. The reality is it’s hard to gain large amounts of muscle, even if you’re trying to do so! Walking and strength training will help you get fit, possibly lose some weight and build more functional strength to help with daily activities.

Myth 11: You need special workout clothes and shoes.

Businessman in dress clothes running up stairs
ETAJOE / Shutterstock

One of the great things about walking for fitness is that you don’t need a lot of supplies. The best clothes for walking allow comfortable movement without restriction or chaffing. Breathable fabrics and removable layers help you keep your temperature in check. While walking shoes must provide adequate cushion and support, it’s not necessary to have a special pair of sneakers just for walking workouts.

If you’re a serious walker with a 10,000 step goal (or more), you’ll want to start looking into walking specific gear. But most comfortable shoes will work in a pinch. For a 5-minute walk, you can usually get away with wearing most shoes. If you’re planning to walk for 2 hours, however, you’ll definitely appreciate a good pair of walking shoes by the end.

Myth 12: You should walk with weights.

Women walking with weights in a park
antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Some people think that serious walkers should use wrist and ankle weights for better results, and to get strength training in while walking. We’ve covered this before – these weights could theoretically help you burn a few extra calories while walking, but they will increase your risk of injury. Adding weight increases the impact of each step and can lead to wear and tear on joints. Adding five minutes to your workout can yield the same calorie-burning benefits without risking injury.

Final Thoughts:

Walking is an enjoyable form of exercise, and regular activity is the most important element of any fitness routine. Don’t allow myths to get in the way of your progress and make a once enjoyable activity something you dread. If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

14 thoughts on “12 top walking myths debunked: Walking IS effective & 11 more!

      1. I started slow because of my weight (over 300 pounds) and size; around 2,000 to 2,500 steps at first. I worked my way up to 5 miles a day, everyday. I log at least 15,000 a day now ~ personal choice. I went from large amounts of food, high sugar, mostly processed very unhealthy choices and ALOT of diet soda. Some days I could count candy as my only choice for the whole day. I changed to oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, salads for lunch, chicken with veggies for dinner; always paying attention to portion sizes. Chose water over soda.

  1. Healthy eating and moderate walking plus control of portion size has resulted in me loosing a stone in a year not a huge amount i know but I feel better and the weight is staying off.

    1. That kind of slow weight loss is definitely the way to go! Sounds like you found a routine that you can maintain over at least a year, which is the key to keeping healthy. Glad to hear you’re feeling great, and keep up the good work!

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