Busting Some Fitness Myths and Clarifying Others

Posted 03/14/2014 | By HealthCorps

True or False: You can lose as much weight walking as running.

That’s true, but it will take longer.  The National Walkers’ and Runners’ Health Studies initially concluded that if you want to lose weight you should run, not walk.  Researchers at Duke University took the studies’ conclusions and decided to re-visit some of the findings.  These researchers concluded that walking 11 miles a week yielded the same amount of calories burned as jogging 11 miles a week.  But it took the walkers, on average, an extra hour per week to achieve the distance and the calorie burn equivalent to the joggers.  The research seems to suggest that intensity does not make a difference, as long as you spend enough time burning an equivalent number of calories.  So you decide if you would rather walk (taking longer) or jog.

True or False: If you exercise in the morning or at some point during the day, it’s then OK to sit the rest of the day.

That is false.  Even if we are active for a significant amount of time as in a morning run or mid-day exercise class, sitting for prolonged periods during the day is associated with more storage of body fat, lower levels of insulin, and increased risk of premature death (despite exercising).  The message from these observations is that of course, daily exercise is important.  Equally important is getting up from your chair every hour and moving around, doing some leg bends, stretching and taking a stroll to the water cooler and back.  Your body was not meant to remain inactive for long periods of time.

True or false: Wearing some kind of fitness tracker can inspire you to move more.

Dr. Oz and Rupert Murdoch swear by their pedometers and fitness trackers, and indeed, charting your movement throughout the day can help to get you moving if you are not motivated and achieving your daily fitness goals.  When it comes to steps per day, 10,000 is the gold standard, and it means you have walked about 5 miles in a given day.  Some trackers can measure intensity of exercise, which can be helpful if time is limited.  When you do get up and move it should be more vigorous activity, especially if you are only getting up a few times during your typical workday to move around.   When using a pedometer, you can begin with a goal of 3,000 steps per day, and add another 1,000 steps every week till you hit the 10,000 step goal.

True or false: Yoga lowers blood pressure.

A report from the American Heart Association released in April of this year reviewed a host of different approaches to lowering blood pressure and found that aerobic exercise was the gold standard.  Engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for 40 minutes, three to four times/week caused significant reductions in systolic (the upper number) blood pressure, in individuals who had high blood pressure.  Weight lifting and circuit training were next in line to reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.  Deep breathing and TM or transcendental meditation, were the next activities to have an impact on blood pressure (in individuals with high blood pressure).  The findings on yoga and acupuncture were not quite as provocative, but researchers are still looking at these modalities.  Certainly they do have other health benefits, and yoga in particular, is an excellent companion to vigorous workouts.

For free strength training videos, check out: http://cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/videos

Sources: Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 45:706, 2013; Arch. Intern. Med. 164.31; 2004; Med. Sci. Sports. Exer. 42, 1951; 2010; Int. J. Obesity32; 684, 2008; Diabetes Care 35: 976, 2012.

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