For a Healthier Heart, Take a Walk

For a Healthier Heart, Take a Walk

It seems like every day, science is finding more and more reasons for us to get up and get moving. Here’s another good one: A study published in the journal The Lancet shows that for people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes, simply walking more can slash the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In the study, over 9,000 adults who had prediabetes and heart disease risk factors were enrolled in programs meant to increase physical activity. Each participant’s average daily number of steps was measured at the start of the program and then again one year later.

After analyzing the data, researchers found that for every 2,000 steps (roughly 20 minutes of walking) more per day a person took at the start of the study, the risk of heart attack and stroke was 10% lower. And for every additional 2,000 steps taken per day during the study period, the risk fell another 8%.

Also worth noting, people benefitted from those additional steps no matter their weight or how much they walked at the beginning of the study.

More Reasons to Take 2,000 Steps Forward
This study just goes to show that small, meaningful changes can make big differences when it comes to our health. In addition to protecting your heart, a simple walk also

  • Keeps belly fat in check. Aerobic activities like walking, swimming or riding a bike help to burn calories and bust up dangerous abdominal fat – the kind responsible for inflammation, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Lowers your RealAge. In just 90 days, your body begins to reap the age-reducing benefits of a walking program. You have more energy, become better equipped to fight off disease, and begin to significantly lower stress levels. 
  • Helps you sleep better. Research has shown that people who walk more than six blocks a day reduce their sleep problems by one-third. And walking at a brisk pace cut those problems down by half.
  • Boosts brainpower. Walking helps to nourish brain tissue and promotes connectivity of neurons and synapses, which can help to stave off faltering memories in people over 50.

Finding the Motivation to Move
Walking is one of the easiest, safest ways to incorporate more exercise into your life. But it can be difficult to get moving if you aren’t used to taking those extra steps. Don’t worry, though. These tips can make getting started a little easier.

What to do when life gets in the way of your walk.

  • Track your steps. It’s hard to get to where you’re going if you aren’t sure where you’ve been. Tracking your steps gives you tangible evidence of the progress you’re making, which will make it easier to keep going.
  • Grab a buddy. Walking with a friend makes it easier for us to keep the commitment to walk. We tend to feel more accountable to other people than we do to ourselves. Plus, walking with a friend seems less like a daunting workout and more like socializing. Friends not available today? Walking with your dog is another easy way to stay on track, and it’s a great workout for Fido, too.
  • Treat yourself. Listen, bribery works. Set an attainable goal for yourself – say, 30 minutes a day for a week – and when you reach it, take yourself out for a massage, treat yourself to that dress you’ve been eyeing or splurge on that new gadget.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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