Walking is one of the best exercises that you can to protect your heart and support heart health. Heart disease is very common – it’s the leading cause of death in both men and women in the US and studies show that 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day. While walking and other forms of cardio exercise won’t cure every instance of heart disease, getting active, exercise plays a key role in heart health according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.
February is American Heart Month, but every month is a good time to start a walking routine and improve your heart health. We’re covering tips on how to assess your risk of heart disease, and how walking can help improve your health!
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A preventable problem
While heart disease may be a leading cause of death, it’s also one of the most preventable causes. By following some simple guidelines, you can reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Know your family health history: It’s important to understand your risk factors for heart disease. Did your parents or grandparents suffer from it?
- Have regular check-ups: An annual check-up is one of the best ways to gauge your heart health. Working with your doctor, you can come up with a plan to manage any habits or conditions you may need to address.
- Make heart-healthy choices: This includes diet AND exercise. The best foods for your heart are those rich in nutrients, fiber and healthy fats.
Exercising for a healthy heart
Exercise helps you maintain a healthy heart. Activities like cycling, running or swimming are great for heart health. However, one of the best exercises may be one of the easiest to incorporate into your routine – Walking!
Brisk walking lowers your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It also prevents bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Walking also helps keep your weight under control, which can get tougher as we age.
Why is walking one of the best exercises to do on a daily basis? It’s great for your health, gets you a good workout, and is easy to start with no expensive equipment required besides a good pair of shoes. Walking can also be done anywhere. You can walk outside of course, but if that isn’t an option, you can walk indoors on a track, a treadmill or even at the mall or a suitable indoor location.
Best of all, you don’t need to have special skills or training to walk. It’s safer than other forms of exercise, meaning you’ll have less risk of injury. Studies show that walking has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise which means that you’re likely to stick with a walking routine. Walking is also accessible to people who already have health conditions or heart conditions. You’ll want to start slow and ask your doctor before starting a walking routine, even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference in your health.
How to get started
If you’re not walking extensively yet, make sure to start slow. Before you begin any exercise activity, talk to your doctor. If you aren’t currently active, start walking just a little bit every day. Even five to 10 minutes a day can make a big difference in your health. Start walking more and taking longer walks as you feel able.
If you’re already in shape, try starting with 30 minutes of dedicated walking per day and adding more every week or so. Don’t add too much at a time – try adding one or two thousand steps to your goal and give yourself at least a month to get there. It’s very hard to actually walk too much! The more you walk, the more benefits you may reap.
Russell Pate, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, says, “The findings are consistent with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults that we need 30 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to derive benefits.”
Track Your Steps
Keep track of your steps so that you can track your progress over time. By keeping track of your steps and distance over time, you can find out if you’re getting more active, and motivate yourself to continue to walk every day. Try to increase your step count little by little – perhaps just a few hundred extra steps a month – until you’re walking more than before. Pacer is a great way to track your steps using just your phone, and you can easily view your past results.
Get started today with a walking program – your heart will thank you.
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