All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
A brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can reduce heart disease risk, possibly by as much as 30 to 40 percent.
The great thing about it is that just about anyone can do it -anywhere - anytime - and at their own speed. Even previously sedentary, middle-aged or elderly adults can get significant health benefits by simply strolling around the neighborhood every night. (If you want to get started but you are unsteady, consider using a cane or poles for more stability and to protect you from falling.)
Not only will you do your heart good, but you'll tone up, lose weight, and feel invigorated!
Be sure to start out slowly, increase gradually, and get advice from your health care professionals.
After my heart event, my cardiac rehab program said to start with five minutes on my treadmill, then increase to twice a day, and gradually increase the time. Eventually I settled in at 30 to 60 minutes at a brisk pace several times a week.
I continue to walk several times a week, every week - outdoors in good weather and on my treadmill when the weather is uncooperative.
Here's what you can do:
1. Follow a walking programfor greater success. Here's agood plan to follow.
2. Use a heart rate monitor to ensure you are within your target range. If you are not achieving your target rate, you won't get the cardiac benefits. If you are over your target heart rate, you may be putting yourself at risk. Using the monitor can give you extra confidence. There are many styles to choose from. Check out Amazon for wide selection ofheart rate monitors. Some combine monitor, pedometer and watch. Others include calorie counters. Many are now strapless.
What is your target heart rate? There are simple calculations to determine your target heart rate based on age, gender, and fitness levels, but if you are living with heart disease, we strongly recommend getting advice from your doctor or cardiac rehab team to ensure you are exercising in the appropriate heart rate zone. A simple formula for estimating your target heart rate is located here.
3. Get a treadmill if you live where the weather or other conditions can be an obstacle. My treadmill has been worth its weight in gold to me. I can use it any time of day or night and I enjoy watching movies or television while I exercise. Before I know it 30 minutes has zipped by!
A good source for factory direct treadmills and elliptical trainers isSmoothFitness.com. They ship their products throughout the USA, Canada, UK and Germany.
4. Set achievable goals. Record your activity. Use the Smart Heart Livingfitness log and reward yourself as you reach your goals.
5. Consider a pedometer to track just how far you've gone. If you are goal oriented, you'll enjoy monitoring your distances! Again, Amazon has a great selection of pedometers.
6. Get good shoes. It can make a huge difference to your comfort! And your comfort will affect your motivation.
7. Find a buddy. If you make a regular appointment to meet a friend you are more likely to do it... not to mention that visiting while you exercise is another way to make that time go more quickly and pleasantly!
Where to Walk?
If you participated in cardiac rehab, you probably used a treadmill.
Advantages: Treadmill workouts have certain benefits - such as being able to program your time, your speed, and your incline. You are not bound by the weather or concerns about safety. It doesn't matter if it's dark outside - you can exercise at any time of the day or night. And, you can watch TV or movies while you get your exercise.
Disadvantages: Not everyone has a treadmill, and it may not be feasible to even consider a treadmill if you have space or budget constraints. Some may find using a treadmill boring. Only one person can use a treadmill at a time so you can't walk with a buddy! (We tried but my husband kept falling off the back of the treadmill. Ha ha - seriously though - don't even try it!)
NEIGHBORHOOD SIDEWALKS & STREETS
Advantages: Getting out in your neighborhood will not only help you get fit, but will also connect you with your community. Natural variations in the terrain will add to the benefits of your workout. Being able to vary your route can keep it interesting.
Disadvantages: If the weather is uncooperative you may put off exercising. If your community was not designed to be "walker-friendly" it may be difficult or even unsafe.
Parks generally have sidewalks or paths designed for pedestrians.
Advantages: A brisk stroll in a park means you are away from cars (no exhaust, no risk of being run over) and you can enjoy tranquil and beautiful surroundings.
Disadvantages: Depending on the park, there may be safety issues. It may not be a safe place to go after dark. You may not have a park close to your home.
Many communities have trails for walkers. In my community the trail system connects a network of parks but includes some sections through residential areas.
Advantages: Various routes are marked for your convenience. Often maps that show the routes and the distances are available. Check with your local parks and recreation department or government agency. Having a selection of routes allows you to vary your exercise and gradually increase your distance.
Disadvantages: Again, there may be safety issues. There may be places that are not safe after dark. If the trails (or segments of) are somewhat isolated, you could get into trouble if you are alone and encounter problems along the way. Carry a cell phone and identification. If the trails are not near your home, you may have to drive your car or take transit to get to the trail.
Local schools may have an outdoor track you can use.
Advantages: The surface is flat and stable. Many outdoor tracks have nighttime lighting so you are not limited to the daylight hours, and there may be other people using them - which makes them safer. It's easy to calculate your distance - the number of laps x the length of the track.
Disadvantages: School team practices and activities on the track will limit the availability. You will need to adjust your schedule accordingly.
Some health clubs have indoor tracks.
Advantages: Weather won't affect you. You can connect with others (which can be motivating and make the time go faster) and you can monitor your distance. If you choose to go out in the morning or at lunch time, you can shower and change before going to work.
Disadvantages: You will have to purchase a membership or pay a drop-in fee to use the track. Getting to the health club will add extra time to your workout - which may or may not be a concern depending on the demands on your time. Doing laps (especially inside) can can be boring.
In recent years, malls have become popular for walking groups.
Advantages: Weather (hot, cold, rain, sleet or snow) won't affect you. The floor surface is level and safe. If you are just starting out, you will be able to find benches to rest periodically. As you progress you can add some stairs to your regime. You can meet friends or join a group. You can reward yourself with a drink or a snack (heart healthy of course) when you are done. You can also run some errands while you are there - after your workout. Some malls open early to accommodate walkers. Some have clubs with events, competitions, and prizes. Check with your local mall.
Disadvantages: Mall floors are very hard - be sure to wear good shoes. If you exercise at a time when the mall is busy, you may have to navigate your way through shoppers. If possible, choose a time when the mall is quiet. Temptation to go shopping may be too great to resist!
When you head outdoors, there are a few things you should consider to ensure your safety.
Why use a pedometer?
Walking - Pick up the Pace!