Your heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger and healthier if you lead an active life. It’s never too late to start exercising, and you don’t have to be an athlete. There is something you can do that’s so easy – walk and your heart will thank you for it.
According to a recent study, briskly walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running. Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers Health Study. They found that the same energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly even coronary heart disease over the course of six years. The more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for optimal benefits. The study findings are consistent with these recommendations.
If you’re new to exercise, walking is the perfect way to ease back in. Start slowly with just a few minutes per day. Even a ten-minute walk down your street and back is a good start. Set an attainable goal and increase your time and distance each week. Before you know it, you’ll be up to 30 minutes and your heart will thank you.
Here are some more ways to encourage walking in your daily life:
- Instead of letting the dog out in the yard, take her for a walk. Don’t have a dog? Ask a neighbor if you can walk theirs.
- Park your car far away from your destination so you have to walk to get there.
- Cold outside? No problem. Go to your favorite mall and walk while you window shop. Many malls open early just for this reason.
- Ask your friends to join you. Maybe you meet every other night after work for a quick walk. It’s always more fun to exercise with friends.
So, lace up your sneakers and get out there and walk. It’s easy, safe, inexpensive and has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise. And remember, for every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours. Plus, walking for as few as 30 minutes a day improves your heart health.