Walking Your Way to Better Heart Health

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By Daniel C. Ruacho

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walking very far.” Jefferson, being fond of exercise and walking, specifically begs the question why run when you can walk?

Even with heart disease being the number one killer in America, motivation to exercise can be difficult to find. Perhaps this is due to a belief that we need to run marathons in order to achieve optimum health. Olympic runners are often portrayed as the healthiest and most fit people, when in fact, all it takes is 30 minutes of brisk walking five days per week to meet the American Heart Association’s recommended exercise guidelines.

“Walking and running share similar benefits in the weight loss department, however walking provides separate benefits as well,” said Greater Phoenix American Heart Association board member Martha Gulati. “Walking takes all of the extra stress and impact off your joints that running does not.”
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Walking can also lower cholesterol as well as your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which are conditions that can increase your chances of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke later in life.

A regular walking routine that includes even just 10 minutes per day can lead to benefits such as improved cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increased energy and stamina, bone strength, and the prevention of weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends an exercise regimen of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.

If you are exercising for the first time in a long while, walking is a great place to start. If the idea of running or strenuous activity has turned you off from exercise, remember that it is possible to begin a healthy and active lifestyle by simply walking out your front door.

Jumpstart your health by participating in the Phoenix Heart Walk on March 18 in Downtown Phoenix. For more information and to register, visit phoenixheartwalk.org. For more on the American Heart Association, visit heart.org.

Daniel C. Ruacho is the director of communications and marketing for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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