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Celebrate the Return of Spring by Working on Your Heart Health

Spring is officially here, bringing with it warmer weather and the ability to finally take our exercise routines outdoors. One of the best ways to get started is by walking, which doctors agree is not only a good idea for people of all ages, but also great for the health of our hearts. And as April 6th is National Walking Day in the U.S., this the perfect month to start working on our heart health out in the seasonally fresh air!

Studies show that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are three conditions that are big risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The good news, however, is that risk can be lowered with brisk walking. Try some of the tips below to help pave your way to a healthier heart. It is vitally important to walk at a comfortable pace and I always encourage my non-athletically conditioned patients to keep their walking speed at a level that they can talk comfortably without becoming short of breath.

Set a reachable goal: try starting out for 15 to 30 minutes a day and increase your time as the weeks go by. If you’re too busy to commit to 30 minutes at once, split up your walks into 10-15 minute increments. If you are worried you might find a long walk too tedious alone, take your dog or bring along a friend. You can also download music, podcasts or audio books for entertainment along the way. Also consider using a fitness tracker to keep yourself motivated.

Choose your shoes and course with care: wear shoes with solid arch support, firm heels and flexible soles to absorb shock and cushion your feet. If you’re walking in the dark, know the area well and wear bright and light colors or reflective tape so cars can see you. Walk facing the traffic, keep to well-lit areas and avoid low-hanging limbs and uneven turf. In short keep safe as you working on staying healthy.

Work on your stride: Keep your head up and look forward, not at the ground. Your neck, shoulders and back should be relaxed while you swing your arms freely with a slight bend at your elbows. Keep your stomach muscles engaged and your back straight. Walk smoothly, rolling your feet from heel to toe. Take the talking test to gauge your breathing levels: if you can’t answer a question, you’re walking too fast.

Use Technology if You Can

I am a big fan of using technology like a smart phone or watch to keep track of the distance you walk, the time spent walking and even with certain free downloadable apps., you can track your calories burnt and even your pulse.  If you are not into technology, that is totally fine; I personally find seeing my efforts numerically or graphed keeps me motivated.

Warm up, cool down and stretch: start your walk at a slow pace for 5-10 minutes and at the end of your walk, return to that pace to help your muscles cool off. After you’ve finished, gently stretch your muscles, and stay hydrated to avoid injuries or soreness. Visit the Arthritis Foundation at http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/walking/stretches-for-walking.php for simple stretching exercises you can do anywhere.

 

American Heart Association. (2015). Walk, Don’t Run, Your Way to a Healthy Heart. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.Vjkj-7erSUk

Mayo Clinic. (2015). Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261

Move It, People. (2015). Outdoor Walking Safety Tips. Retrieved from http://www.moveitpeople.com/walk/safety-and-walking-tips/

Mueller, Jean & Nichols, Nicole. (2015). Walking Safety Tips. Retrieved from http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1196

Sifferlin, Alexandra. (April 5, 2013). Walk, or Run, to Lower Heart Disease Risk: Benefits Are Similar. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/05/walk-or-run-to-lower-heart-disease-risk-benefits-are-similar/

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Health Tips On the Go!

Improve Posture

  • 1.Avoid slouching. Be aware of your posture as you walk, sit, and drive, keep shoulders squared and head pulled back and up.

  • 2.Imagine a thread pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. Visualization can help improve your sense of position.

  • 3.If your job requires you to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch and shake it out.

  • 4.Maintain a strong core to help support proper posture. Add core-training exercises to your daily routine.

  • 5.A firm mattress and ergonomic pillow help achieve proper back support while you sleep, so you'll stand straighter in the a.m.

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