You probably know that regular physical activity plays a big part in heart health, but if you haven’t been active in a while, you might wonder where to start. Before joining a gym or signing up for fitness classes, remember that walking offers a simple, low-cost way to become active on a regular basis.
Walking regularly can benefit your heart — and overall health — in many ways.
How Does Walking Help Your Heart?
Walking is a low-impact activity that can help improve your overall health. According to the Irish Heart Foundation, walking can not only help you fight serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, but it may also lower your risk for osteoporosis, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Whether you’re hoping to prevent heart disease or walking as part of a heart disease treatment plan, regular walking can help you control and manage several risk factors for heart disease by helping you:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Control your cholesterol level
- Manage your blood sugar level
- Lose weight, or stay at a healthy weight
- Cope with stress in a healthy way
Start Walking for Heart Health
Before you start walking for heart health, take a trip to your physician’s office to make sure walking is a safe activity based on your medical history and fitness level.
Your physician can tell you how often you should walk, and for how long. He or she may suggest that you follow the HSE’s recommendations for physical activity in adults that include:
- Childrenand young people (aged 2 –18)
- All children and young people should be active, at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. Include muscle strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises three times a week
- Adults (aged 18–64)
- oAt least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week)
- Older people (aged 65+)
- At least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week). Focus on aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and balance
- Children and adults with a disability
- oAim to be as active as the disability allows to meet the guideline for your age group
Once your doctor or healthcare professional says it’s safe to start walking, all you’ll need is a pair of comfortable shoes. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable clothes that are brighter in color, so you’ll be more visible to drivers, cyclists, and other walkers.
Tips for Walking for Heart Health
- Start slow. Go for a 5 to 10-minute walk at first, then slowly add more time or distance as you get more comfortable walking on a regular basis.
- Break up your walks throughout the dayIf you don’t have 30 to 40 minutes, you can break up your walks into 10-minute sessions.
- Set reasonable goals. Decide how often you want to walk and for how long. For example, you may want to walk for 30 minutes three times per week, then increase to four times per week or five times per week as you reach your goals.
- Walk where you feel comfortable.You may want to walk in your neighborhood, at a local park, or at the nearest shopping mall. If you’re walking outside, stick to sidewalks or well-lit walking paths and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Ask a friend to join you.Walking with a buddy can help you stay motivated and safe.
Learn more about additional steps you can take to help keep your heart healthy, including visiting our specialists at the Cardiac Disease Management Clinic.