Pretty much everyone walks, but to use walking as the form of aerobic activity to get your heart healthy there are some important things to keep in mind including how to prevent injury, the right intensity of walking and the proper duration.
Walking for heart health does require a gradual increase to the point where you may be starting at 5 miles per week, but eventually increase your walking to 15-20 miles per week. This may sound like a lot, but if you do it right you can get there safely without injury and see all the health benefits.
While walking is a great moderate intensity exercise and perhaps “vigorous intensity” at first, you will eventually find as you progress through your HeartStrong.com program that walking no longer can get your heart rate up into that vigorous intensity level of 70-80% of your age predicted maximum. You may have to move up to a jog or carry some extra weight with you while you walk depending on your goals.
To prevent injury, you should not progress your distance too fast. As a general rule, do not extend your distance by more than 10% per week. For example, if you started out by walking 5 miles per week, the next week the most you should do is 5.5 miles (10% more). This gives your joints and muscles time to adapt to the increased activity. The same rule holds true for jogging and running.
Also, be sure to have the proper gear. Yes…walking does require a good pair of walking shoes. It is best to actually visit a running store and have a professional guide you towards the right shoe for you (they do this free of course). You would be quite surprised how complex it can be depending on each person’s situation.
Lastly, to prevent injury be sure to keep yourself on a steady, level path free of obstacles, curbs or anything else that may get in your way. When we are talking about long distance walking, having to get up or down uneven steps or sidewalks can eventually wear on your legs and joints. Try to find a smooth path or walk on a treadmill.
Monitoring the intensity of your walk is the same as monitoring the intensity of any aerobic activity. We use heart rate or a scale called the “rating of perceived exertion” described later in this video.
One last note about walking. As mentioned above, if you are going to use walking as you aerobic activity you need to realize just how much walking it actually takes to get your heart healthy. Walking for 150 minutes per week will probably get you 7-8 miles depending on how fast you go. Now that 7-8 miles does sound like a lot and can also help those who are overweight/obese lose weight, look at the chart below to see how many calories that will burn for you. Recall that 1 pound is 3500 calories.
The number of calories that you burn walking depends on your weight (since being heavier requires more work/energy to move) and how fast you go. Walking faster burns more calories, just like jogging or running a certain distance burns more than walking that same distance. For the average 160 lb person going an average speed of 3.5 mph, 8 miles of walking burns 800 calories. That same 8 miles of walking at 3.5 mph for an obese person weighing 250 lbs will burn off 1200 calories. This 250 lb person will then have to walk more than 23 miles just to lose 1 pound with exercise. This is why gradually increasing your walking to at least 3 miles per day (21 miles per week) is crucial to lose weight, along with the proper calorie balanced diet of course.
|Speed/Weight||100 lb||120 lb||140 lb||160 lb||180 lb||200 lb||220 lb||250 lb||275 lb||300 lb|
Those that are overweight/obese need to remember that you can never “out exercise your diet”, meaning you MUST incorporate a healthy, calorie balanced diet WITH exercise to lose weight. Think of how easy it is to eat a 1000 calorie hamburger or subway sandwich, then think about how easy it is to burn off 1000 calories (at least 7-8 miles of walking)!
Just one last note about walking for heart health. It doesn’t really matter if you walk outside or on a treadmill, you can still get your heart rate up and achieve your goals. Many people like to walk outside, but depending on the weather, this may not be possible every day. It is nice to have access to a treadmill indoors for those rainy days or if you like to watch TV while you exercise. Also, once you have progressed, it is easy to work yourself harder on a treadmill by increasing the incline (grade). To increase your activity if you are an outside walker, you will have to go from a fast walk to a jog or run.