If you really want to help your heart, forget joining that fancy health club or expensive gym and just start walking. Sounds simple, does it not? Studies show that walking is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Experts now say a brisk walk three times a week affords the same type of cardiovascular benefits once associated with more strenuous activities such as running or jogging.
Walking is a great exercise, and all you need is a pair of well-fitting walking shoes. Invest in earphones and a Walkman, and you can enjoy tape recorded music or even books while you walk (but watch carefully for vehicles since your hearing will be affected!). You can walk with a friend, or you walk alone. If you live in a climate where it is sometimes too cold or rainy, and you want to walk, consider a large enclosed shopping mall. A mall is a good place to walk, and many malls have organized walking clubs. The possibilities are endless!
As with any other form of exercise, you should discuss a walking programme with your doctor. Gradually build up the amount of time you walk. Monitor your heart rate, especially while walking uphill and after some brisk walking.
How can you tell if you are walking at a safe pace? Monitor yourself by finding your target heart rate or employ the 'talk test.' Contact your doctor if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other heart-related symptoms.
Even though walking does not involve an outlay of expensive equipment, put some money in your feet. Once upon a time, sneakers were the only 'athletic shoes' available. But the sneaker has grown up, and scientifically sound exercise shoes are now available for walking and jogging. It is also important to dress in loose outfits for ease and comfort. Several light layers of clothing are better than a single one. Also, do not walk outside if it is too cold or too hot; find a climate controlled indoor location.
Set goals as you gradually increase your pace. Condition yourself so that you can walk a long distance comfortably and safely. Walking can provide you with great cardiovascular activity. As you become accustomed to walking longer and longer distances, you may be tempted to jog. Jogging can benefit your heart as well. Remember to check with your doctor first. Once you have got clearance, here are some jogging tips.
To move on from walking to running, you might start out by alternating walking with running. For example, if you are on a track, try running half a lap, and then resume your walking pace. If you are walking over several blocks, alternate a block of walking with a block of running. Increase very gradually and, before you know it, you may be out jogging or running instead of walking. But again, be sure to monitor your heart rate and notify your doctor if you experience possible heart related symptoms.
Beware of hard surfaces. Running on an even soft, grassy surface will be softer on your ankles and knees and help you avoid injury. Once you are accustomed to running, try doing it on an uneven surface. This forces you to lift your legs higher, helps your balance and strengthens your ankles. But be careful and watch out for holes and irregularities in the turf. Running injuries are a common occurrence in such places.
Begin each jogging session with a warm-up. This could include a period of stretching exercises followed by a period of walking, before you begin to run. After you run, perform a 'cool down' period similar to the warm-up. Invite your spouse, or a friend, to be your walking partner. You may be surprised to find out how eager people are to join you.