Walking, Foot for Foot, is the Best Exercise for your Heart

Aug 23 11:27 2008 Kim Thornton Print This Article

What can you do that's good for your heart, is so simple it requires no training, requires no special equipment (other than shoes), can be done just about anywhere and will bring you immediate benefits? Walking!

That sounds like an extreme claim,Guest Posting but study after study has shown that walking, regardless of intensity, has significant overall health benefits and definite heart health benefits according to Smart-Heart-Living.com.

Good News About Walking

The good news: a 20 minute walk, at any speed or level, three times a week, increases your cardiovascular fitness.

More good news: walking is a low impact activity with a very low incidence of injury.

Yet more good news: small increases in walking intensity have significant health benefits.

Points to ponder

  • Regular walking can help you lose weight.
  • Daily 30 minute walks can decrease your risk of heart disease by as much as 30 to 40 percent.
  • Walking requires almost no special equipment or clothing... but you will want good walking shoes.
  • It can be done anywhere, anytime.
  • You can walk alone, with a friend, or with a group.
It's all good news!

Walking vs. Running?

Walking is sometimes thought of as the poor cousin to running. Nothing could be further from the truth! Walking is widely accepted as a meaningful fitness activity.
And the low impact nature of walking results in fewer injuries than running. You will be able to continue walking while runners are nursing their running related injuries!

Sandra Thornton, from Smart-Heart-Living.com knows this from experience. Her husband was a runner, yet he was plagued with knee problems that led him to abandon running. Eventually he took up walking.

First he needed to change his thinking because, at the time, he was one of the misinformed who thought one needed to run to get any real health benefits! She says, “We now walk regularly together in good weather or take turns on the treadmill at other times. We even went on a walking holiday in Ireland and are planning more walking vacations.”

Do You Need a Walking Program?

If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can walk! So what's all this about walking programs?

A walking program helps you set specific goals and regular activities that will lead you to those goals. For many, this structure is one of the best ways to stay on task. It serves as the impetus to take action, especially on those days when it might seem easier to put it off!
 
So whether you want to lose some inches, lower your blood pressure, shed a few pounds, or a combination of these or similar objectives, a program geared to those specific goals will get you there MUCH faster than simply having a vague idea of what you want to achieve.

Where to start?

The best exercise is the one you do!

The two most important things are, first, to begin and continue a walking program and second, not to push beyond what is comfortable! If you overdo it you risk injury. This will set you back both physically and emotionally. Excessive soreness can be a discouraging… so set realistic goals.

How to begin

Take gentle walks for whatever length of time and/or distance is comfortable. Track your time rather than distance initially. It might be just five or ten minutes to start. That's great! Just get out and do those walks every day or every other day.
Gradually increase the time for each walk until you're up to 30 minutes per walk. As you get more comfortable with your walking, increase the pace so that you elevate your heart rate slightly.
 
Target heart rate for beginners: between 50 and 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

If you are able to walk for 30 minutes three to five times a week, you're ready to introduce fitness walking into your routine.

Start by incorporating short fitness walking sessions in your regular walks.
Once you're warmed up, about mid-way through the walk, increase your pace so that your heart rate increases. Maintain this for about 10 minutes, then drop the pace and finish your walk.

Do this a couple of times a week, gradually increasing both the time within each session and the number of sessions in which you are doing fitness walking.
Over time you can increase your fitness walking until this becomes your main walking activity.

Gentle walks can remain part of your routine on "easy" days and as the warm up and cool down portions of your walks.

Fitness walking target heart rate: between 60 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.

The Last Word

One of the exciting things about walking for fitness and heart health is that it really is easy! The most important thing is to just get started! And if you're already walking, keep at it!!

Your heart will thank you!

Consult with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.

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SIDEBAR

Calculating Your Heart Rate
Heart rate calculations should serve as a guide only.
Many factors influence your heart rate including age, gender, fitness level, and medications.

Maximum Heart Rate
220 minus (your age) = Max HR
Example: 50 year old
220 - 50 = 170 max. HR

Fitness walking target range:
Low: Max HR X .6
High: Max HR X.75
Example
170 X .6 = 102
170 X .75 = 128

Fitness walking target for a 50 year old is 102 to 128 beats per minute.
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About Article Author

Kim Thornton
Kim Thornton

Kim Thornton is the co-creator and webmaster for http://www.smart-heart-living.com. After Kim's wife Sandra had a serious heart incident in 2004 they created the site to provide the information and resources she searched for after her heart event.

If you're not sure where to turn to get the help you need, this website is a great place to start. It's packed with resources and information related to exercise, diet, body weight, stress, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, lifestyle choices, and much, much more.


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