When days get longer and temps get warmer, it’s the perfect time to increase your get-up-and-go. Put your best foot forward with one of the easiest and most tried-and-true forms of exercise: walking!
Walking is one of the easiest positive changes you can make to improve your heart health. It’s low-risk, simple to start, and free. But walking’s benefits go even further. We talked with experts from the American Heart Association (AHA) to get some words of walking wisdom.
Walk Toward a Healthier You
Research shows that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help:
- Reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke;
- Improve your blood pressure;
- Maintain your body weight and lower the risk of obesity;
- Enhance your mental well-being;
- Reduce your risk of osteoporosis; and
- Increase your energy and stamina.
“The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week,” says Vincent Bufalino, MD, a cardiologist and volunteer for the American Heart Association. “Even short 10 minute activity sessions can add up over the week to reach this goal.”
If you wish to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minute sessions of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times a week. You could do this by walking two miles briskly (about four miles per hour). If that’s too fast, choose a more comfortable pace.
Every Step Counts
Every step is part of your journey to better health, so it’s OK to start small. Just start! Set a reachable goal first, then increase your time as you get in better shape.
For extra motivation, grab a friend. It turns out that being social is one of the best ways to enjoy nature and stick with a routine. Plan walking paths that are convenient for you both or map out routes to new places neither of you have been before.
And if you’re busy—like most of us these days—try splitting up your walks into 10 to 15 minute sessions. Walking the dog, walking to lunch or having a walking meeting all add up to your daily total.
Counting steps with a pedometer or fitness tracker is another way to encourage yourself to increase activity. Start with 5,000 steps or less, and work your way up to 10,000 steps a day.
Walk Away Stress
Regular physical activity can also improve your mood and relieve stress, tension, anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Bufalino. “While the link between stress and cardiovascular disease is not clear, stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.”
Walking on a regular basis can help you think more clearly, keep your mind off food if you’re trying to lose weight, improve your quality of sleep, and give you more energy to feed your potential.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Are you ready to take the first step? Start walking today! All you need are some comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Lace up, get out there, and get moving. Before you know it, walking will be part of your daily routine. And you’ll reap plenty of benefits.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.