Walking Programs for Healthy Hearts
If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can walk! So what's all this about walking programs?
Many people ask, "Do I really need a program?"
A program helps you set specific goals and then establish the regular activities that will lead you to those goals. For many of us, this type of structure is one of the best ways to stay on task.
So whether you want to lose some inches, reduce your BMI score, lower your blood pressure, shed a few pounds, or a combination of these or similar objectives, a program geared to those specific goals will get you there MUCH faster than simply having a vague idea of what you want to achieve. Your doctor or rehab team can help you set your goals and design the right exercise program... including walking.
1. Lifestyle or Health - such as a stroll through a park. Generally at a faster pace than window shopping. In other words, it will elevate your heart rate.
2. Fitness - at a fast enough pace to get your heart rate up to your target training zone.
3. Athletic or High Energy - a variation on the sport of race walking.
4. Walk-Run and Race Walking - here the two books differ. The "dummies" book introduces walk-runs while the other goes into more detail about race walking.
What level is right for you?
Our suggested program for those living with heart disease focuses on just the first two levels.
You are the best judge of where to start. The two most important things are, first, to begin and continue a program and second, to not push beyond what is comfortable or safe! This is a long-term lifestyle change, so take it easy. If you overdo it you risk injury. This will set you back both physically and emotionally. Excessive soreness can also be a demotivator. So please set realistic goals.
How to begin
Gradually (possibly over many weeks) increase your time until you're up to 30 minutes per session. As you get more comfortable, gradually increase the pace so that you elevate your heart rate slightly.
Download the free Smart Heart Living Fitness Log to track your progress and help you stay motivated.
Level 1 target heart rate: between 50 and 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.
How to begin
Do this a couple of times a week, gradually increasing both the time within each session and the number of sessions in which you are doing Level 2.
Over time (and we stress that the time to do this must be adequate to allow your body to adjust) you will increase your Level 2 walking.
If you find that Level 2 is a good and comfortable pace and activity, and you are achieving your fitness goals, just keep doing it!!!
It is important to emphasize that Level 2 walking can be the main focus of the cardio portion of your fitness program! You do not need to move beyond Level 2 to reap the benefits.
We recommend that Level 1 walks remain part of your routine on "easy" days and as the warm up and cool down portions of your regular program.
Level 2 target heart rate: between 60 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Numerous routines are detailed in the two books mentioned above. If you feel the need for further guidance we fully endorse either of these as excellent references.
What walking programs have you found? Has walking made a difference for you? Share your experiences with us!
Note: This section on Walking Programs was taken from a recent issue of the Smart Heart Living Bulletin. Click here to sign up for future editions of this free publication dedicated to YOUR heart health!