Start walking, strengthen your heart

Reduce your risk for heart disease through regular physical activity.

closeup of walking shoes from behindHeart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, one in every three deaths is caused by heart disease or stroke.

Some of the risk factors for heart disease can’t be controlled. They include age, gender, heredity and race.

The good new is there are things you can control:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • Smoking & passive exposure to smoke
  • Physical activity
  • Overweight & obesity
  • Pre-diabetes & diabetes
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Alcohol & illegal drug use

One of the first things you can do is get active. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week for healthy people.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean running out and joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer. It can be as simple as putting on your shoes and walking out the door.

Benefits of Walking

Low-cost or free

Walking doesn’t require any fancy equipment or facilities. All you need is a pair of shoes to get started. Walk around your neighborhood or workplace for 10 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes a day.

Need to find a walking path? Check out this resource from the American Heart Association.

Helps promote weight loss

Even a leisurely walk burns calories. A 150-pound person can burn 240 calories for every hour of walking at a 2 mph pace. And the faster you walk, the more calories you burn, which can help you lose weight.

Plus, walking can help you start a habit of daily physical activity, which will help you continue on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

Helps to reduces stress

Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, can help relieve tension – both physical and mental. In fact, active adults have a lower risk for depression and loss of mental functioning.

Add hours to your life

For every hour of walking, you could increase your life expectancy by two hours, according to studies. In fact, research has shown that moderate physical activity, like walking, for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

Save on healthcare costs

Research also shows that physically active people save $500 a year in healthcare costs, and fitness programs reduce employer healthcare costs by up to 55 percent.

How to add walking to your routine

Take walks before or after meals

Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner or both. Start by walking 5 to 10 minutes each time, then work your way up to 30 minutes. Also consider finding a friend to walk with. Knowing that you have someone to walk with will make it much easier to keep up with the routine.

Park farther away

Instead of circling the parking lot looking for the closest space, look for one further away! Take advantage and walk the extra distance. Better yet, pack your walking shoes and walk an extra lap or two around the store or shopping mall.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Also consider getting off the elevator a few flights early and walking the rest of the way.

Plan family hikes

Include physical activity in your plans and make getting healthy a family affair! Plan family outings that include walking, hiking or backpacking. You can also plan walking tours of your city or participate in treasure hunts, like Geocaching.

For more resources, the American Heart Association has a program to encourage walking. Go to StartWalkingNow.org.