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Does Walking Improve Cardiovascular Health?

Older couple holding hands and walking together on a path

It may seem like a very basic solution to the number one killer in the United States and many countries around the world. However, walking offers a number of incredible benefits that can help reverse cardiovascular risk and stop further degradation of heart health. Unfortunately, inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle – which has become all too common in American life these days – has only increased the incidence of severity of heart disease. And while many patients with cardiovascular issues embark on significant, drastic diet and exercise programs, they are usually unsustainable and often the underlying issues such as obesity are not resolved – sometimes they’re even worsened.

Walking is a great way to kickstart a new exercise regimen in a measured and sustainable way. Depending on a person’s weight, walking 10,000 steps can burn anywhere between 200 and 600 calories. This can be the equivalent of a snack or a good part of one meal. The result is that the patient not only gets their heart working a bit harder, but they may begin to lose weight as well. This all serves to reduce cardiovascular risk.

But Is Walking Enough?

The answer to this question is very simply no. Unfortunately, walking cannot counteract the effects of the hundreds if not thousands of calories that of junk, high fat or high carb foods we often consume in restaurants and even at home. These calories are also consumed in the form of drinks such as alcoholic beverages often combined with sugary mixes, sodas and fruit juices. Think about the fact that walking for an hour only burns as many calories as would be consumed with one can of some sodas. When you put it in that perspective, yes, walking can be helpful, but diet it is important to see real results.

I Am Now Dieting and Walking. Anything Else I Can Do?

The short answer is yes. There’s always more that you can do. One important part of general health is strength training in the form of weightlifting or bodyweight exercises. Strength training increases muscle tone and allows you to burn more calories at rest. Aim for a slow ramp up to avoid injury and don’t overdo it. As you begin to develop a consistent routine, you will find your limits and push yourself when necessary. You may also consider hiring a personal trainer or exercise physiologist early on to be sure that your technique is correct.

Ultimately, while walking is not the only way to improve heart health, it can be the beginning of a healthy routine that can eliminate many of the risk factors associated with a sedentary lifestyle. For those with existing heart disease, is important to speak to your cardiologist to know what limitations you may have and what exercises are best for you.

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