WALKING AND HEART HEALTH

 

Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity, and is the simplest positive change individuals can make to effectively improve their heart health.

 

Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week or every day can help you:

 

•Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
•Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
•Improve blood lipid profile
•Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
•Reduce the risk of non insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

 

Getting Started


Step 1.
Your safety is always a priority. Moderate physical activity is safe for most people, but some adults may need to check with their healthcare provider first. Men older than 40 and women older than 50 who plan a vigorous program or who have chronic disease or risk factors for chronic disease should contact their physician to design a safe, effective program.

 

Step 2. Understanding American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity for heart health are key.

 

Recommendations:

 

•Moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most (and preferably all)  days of the week. More vigorous-intensity activities should be done at 50–85 percent of maximum heart rate.
•Physical activity can be accumulated (e.g., 10 minute sessions) throughout the day. It’s important to include physical activity as part of the regular routine.
•Moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes most days of the week to help lose weight or maintain weight.

 

Step 3. Now that you know what your physical activity needs are, how do you know if what you are doing is enough? One way of knowing whether your activity is moderate or vigorous is the talk test. The talk test method of measuring intensity is simple.

 
•A person who is active at a light intensity level should be able to sing while doing the activity.
•One who is active at a moderate intensity level should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably while engaging in the activity.
•If a person becomes winded or too out of breath to carry on a conversation, the activity can be considered vigorous.

 

Body Mass Index — Body mass index assesses your body weight relative to height. It’s a useful, indirect measure of body composition because it correlates highly with body fat in most people.

 

In studies by the National Center for Health Statistics,

 

•BMI values less than 18.5 are considered underweight.
•BMI values from 18.5 to 24.9 are considered healthy.
•Overweight is defined as a body mass index of 25.0 to less than 30.0. People with BMIs in this range have an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
•Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or greater (based on NIH guidelines). People with BMIs of 30 or more are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
•Extreme obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or greater.

 

To calculate your exact BMI value, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide by your height in inches, then divide again by your height in inches.

 

Target Heart Rate — Many experts recommend that you use your heart rate to determine whether you are exercising at an appropriate level. To check whether you’re exercising within your target heart rate zone, take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side, for 10 seconds. Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 for the number of beats per minute (bpm). This number should be within your target heart rate zone. If it’s too high, you’re straining, and you should slow down. If it’s too low and the intensity feels “light” or “moderate/brisk”, push yourself to exercise a little harder.

 

Age Average   Maximum Heart Rate* Target Zone:
60% to 85% of
Maximum*
20 years 200 bpm 120 to 170 bpm
25 195 117 to 166
30 190 114 to 162
35 185 111 to 157
40 180 108 to 153
45 175 105 to 149
50 170 102 to 145
55 165   99   to 140
60 160   96 to   136
65 155   93   to 132
70 150   90   to 128

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*These figures are averages and should be used as general guidelines.

Note: A few medicines lower the maximum heart rate and, thus, the target zone rate. If you are taking a beta-blocker or a high blood pressure medication, ask your doctor what your target heart rate should be.

 

Above content provided by the American Heart Association in partnership with The Cardiovascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.