Protecting your heart: How to start a walking programme - EazyFeeds

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Sunday 12 June 2016

Protecting your heart: How to start a walking programme

This simple activity is one of the best ways to protect your heart.
To start walking for ex­ercise, all you really need is a comfortable pair of shoes (preferably sneakers). That’s just one reason that this low-impact, do-anywhere exercise is so popular. But the health benefits of walk­ing are the real bonus. Brisk, regular walking is an effec­tive way to lower blood pres­sure and stave off diabetes, both of which lower heart disease risk. In fact, two large, long-term Harvard studies suggest that walking for about 20 minutes a day may cut your risk of heart disease by as much as 30%.

Still, many people need some added inspiration to start and stick with a walk­ing program. One of the best ways is to find walking buddies, says Dr. Lauren El­son, physical medicine and rehabilitation instructor at Harvard Medical School. “I find that if I can get some­one to walk with a partner—a spouse or a friend—that helps a lot.” Even better is getting several friends to walk together, because they all hold each other ac­countable. “They call each other up and say, ‘Where are you?’” Dr. Elson says.
Keeping track
Other people find moti­vation by using a pedom­eter to track their steps and distance, says Dr. Elson, who is also the medical editor of the Harvard Spe­cial Health Report Walking for Health. One review of 26 studies found that peo­ple who used pedometers raised their physical activity levels by nearly 27%, add­ing about 2,500 steps a day. Most stores that sell exer­cise equipment have inex­pensive pedometers. If you have a smartphone, you can download a pedometer app such as Moves, Breeze, or Pedometer++.
Start by tracking your steps from when you get up in the morning to when you go to bed at night. Take the aver-age of your total steps for two or three days, then aim to increase your daily total by about 1,000 to 2,000 steps. Every week, keep in­creasing your steps by the same amount until you reach at least 10,000 steps per day.
If you have heart disease
If you’ve suffered a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease, walking is an ideal exercise because you can easily adapt your rou­tine depending on your fit­ness level. If you have heart failure, ask your doctor to recommend a cardiac reha­bilitation program so you can safely reap the benefits of exercise. This type of super­vised exercise is particularly helpful if you haven’t been active for a while.
Whether you start a walk­ing program on your own or with supervision, plan to start slowly and work gradu­ally toward better fitness—and follow these safety tips:
• Always warm up with five minutes of easy walking to prepare your muscles and heart for exer­cise. At the end, cool down by slowing your pace.
• Don’t push through fatigue. If you feel tired or have any heart symptoms, stop.
• Walk in an indoor shopping mall if it is too cold, too snowy, or too hot to exercise outside. Ask your doctor if you should take any additional precautions.
Two months to a goal
If you haven’t been exer­cising, the eight-week work­out (see “Get started walk­ing”) is a great way to begin. You’ll gradually increase the amount of time you’re walk­ing, building up to the rec­ommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That means brisk walking, as if you’re in a bit of a hurry. Your breath­ing rate should increase, but you can still talk in full sentences. Pay attention to your posture—stand tall with your head up, shoul­ders down and back, and abdominal muscles tight.
•culled from Harvard Medical School. (This article was published under the title: “Marching orders: How to start a walking program”

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