By Candi Fioravanti, M.S., Clinical Health Coaching Manager
As I was walking early this morning, before getting ready for work, I reflected on what a great all-around exercise walking is: it works all of my muscles – legs, rear, back, arms, shoulders, and my heart muscle!
And walking is easy and convenient. I roll out of bed, get into comfortable pants and a bright colored top, put on my sneakers, – and of course, my pedometer – and head outside.
Just a few steps out the door, I hit a stride that I can keep up comfortably for the next 30 minutes while increasing my heart rate. Clearly, the speed I walk at determines my heart rate. There are definitely mornings, especially when the weather is humid, when I walk a little more slowly than on cool, dry days.
I alter my routes every so often because that makes my walks more interesting. Different roads also change whether I walk downhill first then uphill or vice versa. Some mornings I know that I’ll want to walk downhill on the way home, so I choose a route that allows me to do that. Although I always walk at least 30 minutes, my pedometer helps me track how many steps I take!
At Provant, most of our clients hold biometric health screenings which help employees learn about their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. After getting their health screening results, a lot of employees with higher-than-optimal blood pressures and/or cholesterol levels, choose walking as an exercise and find that they truly enjoy it!
We also help clients design company walking challenges (in addition to other types of competitions) which motivate employees to walk either as groups or individuals. Walking challenges are a fun and friendly way to increase your exercise.
Regular exercise, like walking, is a proven way to reduce high blood pressure. Walking can also improve cholesterol levels. As a form of physical activity, walking is considered a moderate-intensity aerobic activity by the American Heart Association (AHA). Walking increases “good” HDL cholesterol and decreases “bad” LDL cholesterol levels when done at the “correct intensity”. That intensity is a moderately brisk pace at which you break a sweat and breathe heavily, but can carry on a conversation and aren’t gasping for air.
For anyone who hasn’t been walking lately, I encourage you to try it – after first talking with your healthcare provider. Start out walking slowly and for short distances. Find a location where the ground is fairly flat and there isn’t much traffic. Many people choose to walk in their own neighborhood, but if your neighborhood isn’t right for you, try walking at a park, a school, or a shopping mall. Walk for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week.