Walking is good for your heart. And mind. And pretty much every other aspect of your health.
TheAmerican Heart Association’s National Walking Day is Wednesday, and health experts are using it to raise awareness about the benefits of walking.
“All cardiovascular exercise is great, but walking has the lowest dropout rate of them all,” said Nellie Kelly, director of communications for the American Heart Association in Tulsa. “It’s the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health.”
According to the American Heart Association, research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
Sonja Boswell of the St. John Stroke Center said recent studies have also shown that the risk of stroke decreases by 20 percent for people who walk for 30 minutes three to five days a week, and by 27 percent for those who walk for 30 minutes five to seven days a week.
“Those are really dramatic numbers,” she said.
Walking 30 minutes a day can help people lose weight and lower their cholesterol. It can also help decrease blood pressure by 5-9 mm/Hg, Boswell said.
“That can be as much as some anti-hypertension medications that we prescribe,” she said.
The benefits of walking extend to mental wellness, too
“You’re up, you’re moving, you’re increasing your oxygen flow to your brain,” Boswell said. “It increases mental acuity, it has been shown to increase memory, and it also helps decrease stress and anxiety, and stress and anxiety can be tied back into blood pressure problems.”
Michael Watkins of Fitness Together said his job revolves around getting his clients moving. Fitness Together offers personal fitness training to individuals and small groups. It also works with companies to help with their wellness programs for their employees.
Watkins said he tells clients that they can break up the 30 minutes into smaller pieces.
“Set an alarm at your desk, and get up and walk for 10 minutes,” he said.
To get the full benefits, though, Boswell said people should not break up walks into less than 10 minutes. It takes 10 minutes of having your heart rate up to get into what she called a “cardiac zone” where blood vessels widen and blood circulation increases.
Another tip Watkins recommends to beginners is to walk with a friend.
“Going out alone can be daunting,” he said. Walking with a buddy will also keep you accountable.
Boswell said there are many ways to incorporate walking into your day.
“You don’t necessarily have to have gym clothes on,” she said. Park farther away or walk over to talk to a co-worker on another floor or in another building rather than sending an email, she suggests.
National Walking Day
ONEOK started Walking Wednesdays about six months ago.
Robert Babcock, the senior wellness coordinator for ONEOK, said the program encourages the company’s employees to take some time out of their day on Wednesdays to walk.
This Wednesday, on National Walking Day, the company is encouraging downtown workers to join them at 11 a.m. at ONEOK Plaza, 100 W. Fifth St., for a community walking event.
Then, at 11:30 a.m., attendees can join a 30-minute walk around downtown.
Babcock said they have also developed a downtown map showing pre-determined walking routes that they will give out to attendees.
“We’re trying to help get individuals out of the office,” he said.
Nellie Kelly of the American Heart Association said this is part of the message the association is trying to get out.
“We are trying to get people to think about walking on their lunch breaks or to have walking meetings at work, not just to think about walking as an at-home activity,” she said.
Those attending the National Walking Day event at ONEOK Plaza will also have the opportunity to sign up for Heart Walk, scheduled for April 20.
The importance of shoes
Experts say walking has the lowest drop-out rate of all exercise forms. You don’t need lessons or a gym membership or special equipment.
But Michael Watkins of Fitness Together said it is important to have a good pair of shoes.
“The more you walk, the more you notice your feet,” he said. “If your feet are always hurting from walking you’re not going to do it.”
Kathy Hoover at Runners-World Tulsa suggests getting your feet fitted.
Knowing your foot structure and biomenchanics – such as whether you have a high arch or flat foot – will help you find the right shoes.
“Each of the companies will have a shoe for each of those foot structures,” Hoover said.
Original Print Headline: Get moving