Walking for Heart HealthLast updated: May 01, 2011
If you'd like to ease into exercise for the first time, recapture lost fitness, or improve your health, walking can yield many gains with few pains. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing that accommodates the weather. No training is required and it's free!
Walking can help:
- Improve your cardiovascular health if you do it 30 minutes 3 times a week
- Reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 percent to 40 percent if you do it briskly 3 or more hours a week
- Increase your lifespan up to 5 years if you walk 2 or more miles a day
- Lower your blood pressure if you do it briskly just 30 minutes most days of the week
- Drop unwanted pounds if you do it briskly 30 minutes most days of the week
- Raise your good (high-density lipoprotein [HDL]) cholesterol in as little as 18 weeks
Talk with your doctor before you begin a walking program.
He or she will make sure it's safe for you to start exercising.
Most people should be able to walk a mile in 15 minutes on a flat surface. If you live in a moderately hilly area, you should be able to walk a mile in 20 minutes. If you can't manage hills, start slowly on a flat surface and increase your distance, speed, and inclines as your muscles and heart adapt. If you're already somewhat fit, swing your arms above your waist to raise your heart rate, burn more calories, and exercise your upper body.
Recent research shows that there's no age limit to getting fit. Even if you're elderly and you've never exercised before, you can do wonders for your heart, overall, and mental health if you start exercising regularly. Your overall fitness and age will have a role in how comfortable you feel starting a walking program, but even elderly first-time walkers suggest they're amazed at how fast they adapt to their walking programs. Many
To start a program you will want to continue, gradually increase your pace and the time you spend walking. If getting started is a challenge, use short intervals of 5 minutes or more and build from there. In as little as 2 weeks, most people will be able to walk 30 minutes nonstop.
In addition to giving you a stronger heart and muscles, regular walking can help you get better night's sleep, improve your memory, and brighten your outlook!