It’s just a walk.
Or is it?
Every step you take is part of your journey to good heart health. If you pick up the pace to a brisk walk that’s even better.
What is the science behind walking for better heart health?
According to a study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkley, walking briskly 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 coronary heart disease over the study’s six years.
The more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.
“The findings don’t surprise me at all,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “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.”
A Korean study showed that walking just 40 minutes a day lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension. The Korean researchers studied 23 men with prehypertension or hypertension.
The researchers measured the men’s blood pressure following a 40-minute brisk walking session and four, 10-minute brisk walking bouts. Their blood pressure dropped by similar amounts after each type of exercise session.
The top number in the blood pressure reading dropped about 5 points after the 40-minute walk and 3 points after the four 10-minute walks. The bottom number of the blood pressure reading dropped about 2 points for both walking sessions.
What are the other pros about walking?
The only equipment you need is a good, supportive pair of running/walking shoes. And if you need extra joint support, you can purchase knee straps or ankle support wraps at reasonable prices. Walking also has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.
What about finding time to work walking into your busy day?
If you don’t have 30 minutes in your day, split up your walks into 15 minutes each twice a day.
Other ideas to work in and enjoy walking:
- Take your dog out for a walk through the neighborhood.
- Walk around a park.
- Park further away from your destination in the parking lot.
- Walk around the mall or a large store.
- Walk on relatively flat nature trails.
- Have walking meetings around the office.
- Purchase a treadmill for your home or walk on a treadmill at the gym.
- Walk around a museum.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Download a podcast or music playlist to listen to while you walk.
- Find a walking buddy – you are more likely to exercise if you are committed to go with someone else.
What if you get bored just walking all the time?
Jeffrey A. Ross, DPM, a clinical professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, recommends alternating walking with other activities. “Instead of walking seven days a week, take a day off and go swimming or biking. That way you’ll work out different muscles and reduce your chance of overuse injuries,” Ross says.
So set a reachable goal just for today, put on your walking shoes and get out and walk! Then do it again tomorrow…