How does walking help your heart?
You probably already know that regular exercise plays a positive part in keeping your heart healthy. I want to talk about how brisk walking also plays a big part in keeping your heart healthy. I like to fit walking in to my daily routine and I am starting to be rewarded for it as I’m seeing so many positive benefits.
Walking helps your heart in so many ways. As it’s a low-impact exercise it improves your health overall, it helps prevent heart disease. In fact walking on a regular basis will reduce your risk of getting heart disease as well as lowering your blood pressure which can put extra strain on your heart. Walking can also help you fight serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, it can lower your risk of osteoporosis, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Brisk walking is THE wonder drug.
My walks often take me in to the countryside, such a wonderful peaceful walk. Although when you come across these guys and they want to chat, there’s no stopping them!
Whether you want to prevent getting any of the above or if you want to improve your health then regular brisk walking will help you manage your risk factors associated with heart disease. Below I’ve noted the ways in which brisk walking can help you make your heart stronger.
Brisk walking can help you lower your blood pressure
A study conducted in Korea has concluded that if you walk 40 minutes per day you will see a reduction in blood pressure if you suffer from hypertension. Indeed another study conducted in the US supported this and also suggested that walking each day offers cardiovascular benefits to people to are overweight.
The Korean study involved 23 men who had hypertension or who were on the border line of hypertension. If you want to know more about blood pressure and the benefits of walking you can read a more detailed post on how walking helps lower blood pressure here. The study showed that blood pressure dropped in each of the men after a 40 minute brisk walk.
This study is significant as the bottom line is that choosing to fit more walking in to your daily routine will help if you are suffering from high blood pressure.
It’s a handy device to have these blood pressure monitors as long as you can read them!
Brisk Walking can help control your cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a soft waxy fat substance found in your blood and the cells in your body. It plays a key role in keeping your heart healthy. The cholesterol is soft, Your body does need some cholesterol to produce hormones and it also helps your body to digest food. It’s important though that your body has the right amount of cholesterol.
There is good and bad cholesterol. HDL is known as good cholesterol and LDL is the bad cholesterol.
Your diet plays a crucial part in keeping your cholesterol at the right level but so does exercise and that includes walking. To keep your cholesterol at a decent level for a healthy heart you want to lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol and brisk walking will do that.
Studies have shown that brisk walking (at an aerobic level) lowers your bad cholesterol and raises your good cholesterol. The amount of time you spend walking briskly also plays a factor with 30 minutes being the minimum amount of time you should aim for. Do this for five times each week and you will be making a positive contribution to lowering your bad cholesterol.
Brisk Walking is the Best for controlling your blood sugar levels and good if you have diabetes
There are some doctors in the UK who are now prescribing walking as a way of treating type 2 diabetes. This is a significant development as research has shown that brisk walking has been found to improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
I recently watched a TV program which followed a group of people who had type 2 diabetes. They walked every day and by the end of the program most of them had reduced their medication while some had come off their medication completely! This is fantastic news for us walkers but also people who want to control their type 2 diabetes. They can do this by simply walking each day.
Fitting walking in to my daily routine has always been my goal and it I would love it to be yours if you are fighting type 2 diabetes. Walking doesn’t have to involve any special equipment – in fact all it needs is a good fitting pair of shoes that you are comfortable to walk in.
Sometimes it’s just as simple as sticking on a pair of trainers and going for a walk!
Brisk Walking can help you lose weight and keep your heart healthy
My walking journey has allowed me to lose some weight. I am still overweight but the scales are going in the right direction. Thirty two per cent of men and 35 per cent of women in America are overweight. The figures for the UK are 1 in 2 people are overweight and 1 in 5 are obese. The good news is though that losing just 10% of your weight can bring about a lot of health benefits including a reduction in your cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure and cut the risk of you getting diabetes and cancer.
So losing a little weight is great for your heart. Of course it can be tough losing weight however, research has shown that if you start walking on a regular basis and aren’t able to shift the weight you will still gain a lot of benefits particularly heart benefits. This should be encouraging for you that daily walking will indeed benefit your heart.
If you want a more detailed way to using walking to lose weight then head over to my blog post on how I have gone about using walking as a way of helping me reduce my weight.
Brisk Walking can help you relieve stress from your heart
The effects of stress should not be underestimated. Our body reacts to stress in many different wants and can lead to a number of health problems. When it gets too much for your body it can lead to high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and in some cases stress can contribute to heart disease.
When we are stressed our body remains on high alert which causes some of us to over eat, drink alcohol, smoke even more than usual, all of these things then can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol which are bad for our heart. Stress also makes our body release adrenaline which increases your breathing and heart rate. It can have an awful effect on us especially if there isn’t anything we can do with our body in the fight or flight response.
Walking can help us manage stress and in turn help us to deal with any effects stress could have on our heart. The reason why I know walking works is because I have tried it and it benefits me. After a tough day at work, walking helps me calm down. Indeed studies have shown that brisk walking reduces stress, anxiety and depression with those practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) recommending walking as an activation method to help with depression. You can read more on how walking can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression here.
Walking for You
Walking can indeed help your heart. It can help make it strong, keep it strong and reduce any ailments that would otherwise keep it from functioning to its full capacity. Walking is one of the easiest and straightforward exercises you can do with so many benefits. Above all walking is an exercise that you can fit easily in to your daily routine.
Walking is one of the best exercises for improving your overall health and your heart health. This includes lowering your cholesterol, keeping your blood pressure at the right level, helping you lose weight and helping to keep your heart free from the effects of stress.
Even the sand on the beach is telling me to just walk!
To get the most out of your daily walking routine, keep challenging yourself. Increase your distance, vary your speed, walk up hills or inclines, listen to music to keep you motivated and vary your route. All of these will keep you motivated and it will also ensure that your body gets the best benefits from your daily walks.
Just a few tips if you are just starting out walking:
To start a walking program:
- The right shows. Buying the right shoes for you is essential if you are going to be walking on a daily basis. There is nothing worse than getting back from a walk to find your shoes have rubbed or even worse you now have blisters on your heels and toes. I know because this happened to me. I hate ill fitting shoes. To read which shoes you should consider then head over to my post on walking shoes v running shoes. This will give you a more in-depth look at the different types of shoes to consider and all my tips for choosing the best ones.
- Stretch before & after. When I first started walking I didn’t stretch and felt the awful effects later! It would be helpful to do some stretching before you go walking and again at the end. Your muscles will thank you for it – I promise!
- Walk the right way. We have been walking since we were young children, yet so many of us don’t know how to walk without our bodies reacting in a negative way! From backs hurts to getting aches and pains. Head over to my blog post on how to ensure you walk in a way that won’t hurt any part of your body! From walking with your chin up, shoulders back to using your arms to propel you forwards.
- Build your endurance. I can remember the first time I walked 40 minutes. I was completely shattered. I didn’t start out with walking 40 minutes. Instead I started with a 20 minute brisk walk at lunch time and built the distance up slowly over a few weeks. I would certainly recommend you take it easy if you are just starting out and then build up your endurance over a period of weeks. Do this until you feel you are ready to take the distance up again. Only you know how your body is feeling and whether you are ready to increase your distance. You can also start by increasing the number of days you walk too until you are walking at least 40 minutes each day for 5 days per week.
Here’s to a healthy heart from walking.