Walking For A Healthy Heart

Posted online: Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 0000 hrs
By Dr Rajeev Virmani

There are countless physical activities out there, but walking is the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your health. Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. It's underrated as a form of exercise but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active.

Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some types of cancers. Your heart is the single most important muscle in your body, but keeping it in shape doesn't require a fancy gym membership or hours of gruelling workouts. Adding a few brisk walks into your week is all it takes. Exercise, such as walking, strengthens the muscles of heart and makes it pump more efficiently, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the other organs.

This is why Max Bupa has taken up the cause of walking and introduced Max Bupa Walk for Health campaign which is aimed at reinforcing the benefits of walking and encouraging people to build more walking into their everyday lives for their overall wellbeing.

There's no question that walking is great for everyone: It dramatically boosts energy levels, fights fat, and protects your heart. But if you have high blood sugar, or if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, walking can be a lifesaver. There is a strong association between abdominal fat and risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular. Walking shrinks this dangerous abdominal fat and thus cuts down the risk of these grave conditions.

According to a research conducted by Max Bupa, diabetes is the biggest health concern amongst Indians. While 32% respondents perceive diabetes as the top health worry, 26% of them cite heart disease as a major health concern followed by stroke at 12%. For both diabetes and heart diseases, walking is the best precaution and cure.

The key is to walk briskly -- 3 to 4 miles per hour -- and for 30-60 minutes at least five days a week. This can cut your risk of heart disease by 40 percent. Walking can also benefit those with a history of heart problems. However, it is important to check with your doctor first before beginning any kind of exercise program.

The easiest way to walk more is to make walking a habit. Think of ways to include walking into your daily routine. If you drive to work, park at the farthest point of the parking lot and walk the difference. If you take the bus, get off one or two stops earlier than normal. Take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break and another during your coffee break. Fit in another 10 minutes after dinner.

Be Sure To

* Get a check up before starting any new exercise program. If you already have heart problems, your doctor may want to perform tests to find out how much exercise you can safely do

* Get a good pair of walking shoes

* Start out slowly and increase gradually. At first, set a pace of about 3 miles per hour and walk for just 10 minutes

* After you have ramped up, do at least 2.5 hours of walking a week. One way to do this is to walk for 30 minutes a day five times a week. But the total number of hours can be reached in any increments convenient for you

* For motivation, walk with friends or pets

* Use a pedometer to count your steps. Wear it throughout the day and try to reach at least 2,000 steps (approximately one mile) at first. Gradually increase your number of steps by 500 per week. Ways to do this include taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or parking farther away from your destination than you normally would

If you’re regularly active, you’ll burn more calories, which helps you manage your weight and other cardiovascular risk factors. Plus, physically active people nearly always report better moods, less stress, more energy and a better outlook on life.

(Author is Head Relationship Doctor, Max Bupa Health Insurance. The views expressed in this article are author's own and do not represent those of The Indian Express)