Heart Disease: Walking for a Healthy Heart

Search Knowledgebase

Actionset

Heart Disease: Walking for a Healthy Heart

Introduction

Walking is a form of aerobic exercise and is one of the easiest ways to increase your physical activity and improve your health. Physical activity increases your heart rate, strengthens your heart, and increases blood circulation through your body, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your organs. Exercise also increases your lungs' ability to take in oxygen, lowers blood pressure, helps to reduce body fat, and improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Key points

  • Have a checkup before beginning an exercise program. If you have heart problems, your doctor may want to do tests to find out how much activity your heart can safely handle.
  • Start out slowly at first, with a warm-up in the beginning, a faster pace in the middle, and a cool-down at the end.
  • To stay motivated, walk with friends, co-workers, or pets. Set goals you can reach.
  • Use a pedometer to count your steps. Wear it all day and try to take at least 2,000 more steps a day than you normally do, and gradually increase your steps over time.
  • Try to do at least 2½ hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week.1 It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.
 

Try to make a walk an essential part of your day. It's fine to walk for 10 minutes or more at a time throughout your day and week. Being active in small blocks of time throughout your day can be just as good as walking for a longer amount of time a few times a week. Accumulating activity throughout the day helps burn calories and maintain your weight.

Small activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking far away and walking to your destination can add up quickly to the minimum recommendation of 2½ hours a week. Be creative. Instead of emailing or phoning a co-worker, get up and walk to his or her desk. If you need to meet with someone, suggest taking a walk instead of staying inside.

To get the heart-healthy benefits of walking, you need to walk briskly enough to increase your pulse and breathing, but not so fast that you can't talk comfortably.

Test Your Knowledge

It isn't necessary to walk a certain amount of time each day. I can be active in blocks of time that work best for me throughout the day and week.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Experts recommend at least 2½ hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise is equal to brisk walking. But it isn't necessary to do it all at once. It's fine to be active in several blocks of 10 minutes or more at a time. For example, I could walk twice a day for at least 15 minutes at a time. Or I could walk for at least 10 minutes 3 times a day.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Experts recommend at least 2½ hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise is equal to brisk walking. But it isn't necessary to do it all at once. It's fine to be active in several blocks of 10 minutes or more at a time. For example, I could walk twice a day for at least 15 minutes at a time. Or I could walk for at least 10 minutes 3 times a day.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Your heart is a muscle with fibres that allow it to contract and pump blood. When used during aerobic exercise, the heart becomes more efficient and pumps more blood with each heartbeat. Exercise, such as walking, also increases your muscles' ability to take oxygen from the blood. A more efficient heart can pump more blood with each heartbeat and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to other organs.

Test Your Knowledge

Walking is a form of aerobic exercise that elevates the heart rate and increases the efficiency of the heart.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Walking briskly increases your heart rate and increases the efficiency of your heart. A more efficient heart can pump more blood through your body, which circulates more blood and nutrients to other organs.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Walking briskly increases your heart rate and increases the efficiency of your heart. A more efficient heart can pump more blood through your body, which circulates more blood and nutrients to other organs.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

One of the best ways to stay motivated to walk is to include other people. Ask friends and co-workers to join you. Join a walking group or club.

  • Buy a pedometer. Wear it every day and count your steps. The first time you wear it, count how many steps you normally take in a day. Set a goal for increasing it each day or week. Try to start with an increase of 2,000 steps a day and work toward 10,000. Get others to join you and set goals as a group.
  • Walk before or after work or on your lunch break. Instead of taking a snack or coffee break, take a walk break.
  • If the weather is bad, take comfortable shoes to the mall and walk several laps inside.
  • Walk to work, school, the grocery store, or a restaurant.
  • Walk around your neighbourhood, around an entire park, or to do errands.
  • Schedule walks on your business calendar. Turn a walk into a brainstorming session with a co-worker.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks that cushion your feet.
  • Drink plenty of water. Take a bottle with you when you walk.
  • Be safe and know your surroundings. Walk in a well-lighted, safe place.
  • Plan family outings around walks together.
  • Take your dog on a walk.
  • Set a goal to participate in an organized fitness walk.

Test Your Knowledge

Buying a pedometer or step counter is an easy way to motivate yourself to walk more.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A pedometer or step counter can help you determine how active (or inactive) you are throughout the day. After you know your level of activity, you can set goals to increase your steps, and your fitness, throughout the day.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A pedometer or step counter can help you determine how active (or inactive) you are throughout the day. After you know your level of activity, you can set goals to increase your steps, and your fitness, throughout the day.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to plan a walking program that suits you.

Talk with your health professional

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your health professional.

If you would like more information on cardiac rehabilitation, the following resources are available:

Organizations

Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation
1390 Taylor Avenue
Winnipeg, MB  R3M 3V8
Phone: (204) 488-5854
Fax: (204) 928-7873
Web Address: www.cacr.ca
 

The Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation (CACR) is a professional organization that promotes research in cardiac disease prevention and rehabilitation. The CACR website includes articles on topics related to cardiac disease.


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
222 Queen Street
Suite 1402
Ottawa, ON  K1P 5V9
Phone: (613) 569-4361
Fax: (613) 569-3278
Web Address: www.heartandstroke.ca
 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada works to improve the health of Canadians by preventing and reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke through research, health promotion, and advocacy.


Return to topic:

References

Citations

  1. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines For Adults. Available online: http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP-InfoSheets-adults-ENG.pdf.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Richard D. Zorowitz, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Last Revised November 22, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.