Walk, Don't Run, Your Way to a Healthy Heart

Updated:Jun 23,2014

Adult Couple WalkingOK, so you’re not much into running? Or maybe you’ve had an injury and can’t run. Then just walk — every step you take is part of your journey to good heart health.

In fact, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running, according to a new study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkley, Calif. All three conditions are risk factors for heart disease and stroke — and you can do something about them.

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. Read more about the study highlights.
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.”

On Your Mark, Get Set … Walk!
Maybe you’ve been sedentary for a while. No problem.

“Just get started,” Pate said, “even if it’s a few additional minutes per day.”

It’s not all or nothing; it’s step by step. So set a reachable goal just for today. Then you can work toward your overall goal of 30 minutes a day by increasing your time as you get in better shape.

“Just find an approach that you find enjoyable,” said Pate, who is also a volunteer for the American Heart Association. “It may be the setting, doing it with someone or walking alone because you appreciate the solitude.”

And if you’re busy — like most of us — you can split up your walks into 10-15 minutes each. You can also work in walking when you:

  • Take the dog out for a stroll through the neighborhood.
  • Spend quality time with the family at the park.
  • Park farther from your workplace and use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Window shop at the mall.
  • There’s lots of ways to engage in it,” Pate said.
It’s So Easy — and It Works
All you have to do is lace up with a good pair of sneakers — and walk. It’s that easy. It’s also safe, the least expensive and has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.

“It’s not a skill-dependent form of activity,” Pate said. “It’s the most accessible form of physical activity. You can do it almost anywhere. And it doesn’t require a lot of equipment.”

Before you know it, brisk walking can become a part of your daily routine. And you’ll reap plenty of benefits:

  • For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours.
  • Walking for as few as 30 minutes a day improves your heart health.
“Clearly, walking is an important form of physical activity,” Pate said.

Learn more:



Last reviewed 03/2014

Physical Activity

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