Research has shown that walking at a lively pace for at least 150 minutes a week can:
- Reduce Arthritic Pain
- Lower the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several types of cancer
- Improve balance and reduce falls
- Boost bone strength
- Improve blood pressure, blood sugar & blood cholesterol levels
- Reduce the risk of depression
- Sleep better
- Weight control
- Improve memory and lower the chance of developing dementia
- Helps with digestion
- Increase energy and stamina
150 minutes may sound like a lot but short activity sessions can be added up over the week to reach this goal. It’s easy to fit in a few minutes of walking several times a day!
How do I start?
- Gear up! Find comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Dress in layers so you can stay cool. A shoe designed for walking or running is best but not required. Make sure your shoes fit properly; have an athletic shoe store map your foot to determine the best type of shoe and the proper size for you. Avoid cotton socks because they retain moisture and can lead to blisters.
- Begin with short distances. Start with a stroll that feels comfortable and build your way up.
- Focus on form. Head up (No texting!), engage your abs, relax your shoulders, swing your arms naturally, and stick with a comfortable stride.
- Pace yourself. Warm-up at an easy pace and gradually increase your speed
- Breathe! If you can’t talk or catch your breath while walking, slow down!
- Add variety and challenge! Try intervals. For example, walk one block at a fast pace, then two blocks at a slow pace and repeat. Over time you will be able to add more fast intervals with shorter recovery periods. Hills and stairs are other challenges that increase muscle tone and burn more calories.
- Stretch! The end of your walk is a great time to stretch since your muscles are warm. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds. Don’t go to extremes, just a gentle stretch will do.
- Track your progress! Use one of the free fitness apps you read about in this series for ease of recording and reviewing your accomplishments!
Remember, it is always best to check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Call St. Francis Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation for information on how to get started in an exercise program 402-372-6722