Making the Most of a Short or Long Walk to Improve Your Heart Health
We know that regular walks decrease the incidence of heart disease and extend the average person’s life compared to a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise undoubtedly has fantastic benefits, but we often wonder if we’re making any progress. It is proven that if we perform the same activities repeatedly, our muscles get accustomed to the strain they are experiencing and no longer provide the same benefit; this is one reason any trainer will tell you to shake up your exercise routine week-to-week or month-to-month. It’s also why high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is so effective. The same thing holds for walks. Walking the same amount of time on the same trail or route each day is undoubtedly beneficial, but are you making the most of that walk? Following are a few tips to make that walk even more productive. Of course, do the following only with the advice of your doctor.
First, look for hills. You’ll notice that the leisurely walk becomes more of a workout once you start climbing hills. It doesn’t hurt that you will probably get lovely views while at it. Start with smaller or fewer hills and work up to more intense trails as you get accustomed to them. Remember to exercise only within your physical ability; if anything hurts, stop. You don’t want to injure yourself or overstrain your cardiovascular system.
Second, incorporate some light weights. You can bring along some light dumbbells and get an arm exercise while walking. No weight? Consider your water bottle as a good substitute. Just remember to work out both arms equally. If you have a grocery store along your route, why don’t you consider picking up some dried goods as you walk? Throw them into a backpack for a little extra resistance.
Third, time your walk appropriately. If you’ve had a carb-filled meal, consider walking shortly after to allow your body to burn off those extra carbs that you may want avoid at your next meal. Similarly, get yourself well hydrated before your walk so that you don’t slow down or experience the effects of dehydration.
Finally, while extra exercise the stress relief in and of itself, you can use your walk to melt off the stress. The movement will probably make you more productive and get you thinking more clearly. This might be a great time to solve a pressing issue in your life, allowing you to move on and eliminate the stress associated with that decision. Otherwise, walking may be a great way to clear your mind of anything bothering you. Think of absolutely nothing in your day-to-day life and instead focus on your natural surroundings, taking it all in.
Of course, we can always be more productive, and just taking a daily walk is an excellent step in the right direction. Once walking is a daily part of your routine, you can start experimenting and switch it up to burn more calories or build muscle. Just be sure not to overdo it and risk injury.
Good luck, and of course, remember that your cardiologists here at the Heart House are available to keep you on the right track in improving your heart health and managing any cardiovascular diseases that you may have.