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How to Upgrade Your Walking to Protect Your Heart

By Sandy Schroeder

Most of us are walking more, often building up to 10,000 steps a day, but we may have to kick it up another notch to protect the heart. Considering how much many of us sit, any form of walking is a plus. Walking the dog, walking with the kids, or walking between meetings all count. We just have to take the next step.

Stepping Up the Pace

To protect the heart with exercise, researchers say we should be targeting brisk walking, which turns out to be a pace of about 100 steps per minute, or about 3 mph, according to Harvard Health. This can help you hit the moderate intensity level needed to exercise the heart.

See Where You Are

If you are already walking daily, you can see how this pace fits your routine. As always, you should check with your doctor before increasing your normal routine. You might want to consider scheduling a special visit to review your health numbers, and get your doctor's evaluation of your heart health.

When you are ready to start, find your baseline of the average number of steps or speed. Use a watch or activity tracker to determine how long it takes to walk 100 steps at your normal pace.  Or you can pin down a mile or half-mile in your neighborhood, and see how long it takes you to complete the mile.

More Brisk Walking Tips

Start gradually - Do 10- to 20-minute walks three times a week and see how you feel. If you need to, cut the time in half with a break in the middle.

Find a good spot - Flat, level walking areas without broken sidewalks, tree roots or other obstacles are the best choice. Pick areas that you know that are well lit. If the weather is bad or you want to walk at night, consider a treadmill.

Stand tall - Look straight ahead and avoid hunching forward or leaning back. Roll your feet forward in a heel-to-toe motion.

Putting It in Perspective

Achieving the moderate intensity level needed to lower your risk for heart conditions requires 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, five times a week. If you need to, take your time to get there, but don't lose sight of the goal.  

Researchers also say this pace may be just as effective as running to protect the heart. Recent studies contrasting walkers and runners found moderate-intensity walking worked as well as running to cut an individual's risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Stepping up the pace may seem like an effort at first, but the overall benefits are hard to ignore. Keep going to enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy heart.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Roseville, Minn.

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