Walking toward a healthy heart

By Dr. Manoj Jain

When my wife asked me to take the basket of clean laundry upstairs to the bedroom, I did it with zest.

Why? Because it was no longer a chore, rather now it was a path towards reaching 10,000.

10,000 what, you ask? 10,000 steps.

After the holidays, when I noticed I had gained some extra unneeded pounds, which is the national norm, I made a change. I added walking to my routine.  Not just a casual walk or an exercise walk each evening,  but walking more in my day-to-day schedule.

So at the hospital where I work, I religiously take the stairs. I walk briskly to the emergency room, which is at the other end of the hospital, and walk back a bit slowly. I am no longer irritated if I cannot find a parking space close to the front doors of the grocery store. And, I am relaxed when I have to pace twice or three times in an aisle to find what I need on my grocery list.

Each step is counted on my iPhone app. In fact, I was quite surprised how accurate the apps are in capturing the steps I take.

I call these steps hard-wiring “walking” into my routine. Our grandparents and their parents did this. They did not have the luxury of a car, elevator or escalator. They walked. Walking has become recreational, but we need to make it more transportational, which will lead to transformative health benefits.

According to a review article in the Harvard Health Publications, studies show that walking improves cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, mental stress, peripheral artery disease and depression.

Researchers reviewed over 4,000 articles on the benefits of walking. From these they selected the best 18 studies with over half a million participants and found that participants who walked regularly over the course of 11 years had a 30 percent reduction in risk of heart related adverse events like angina, heart attack or bypass surgery as well as a 30 percent reduction in risk of death.

But how about those who do not walk routinely and then take up walking, would they benefit? Yes, according to a study of 229 postmenopausal women over the course of 10 years. One group was randomly assigned to walk one mile a day, the other was told to do their routine activity. The walkers surprising had an 82 percent lower risk of heart disease.

How much should one walk each day? Here is where counting the 10,000 steps is helpful. The benefits start with just 2,000 steps  (1 mile a day) at a slow pace of 2 miles per hour. However, the longer distance and faster pace reaped greater protection. The recommendations are to walk 10,000 steps a day. The bonus is that walking an additional 2,500 steps a day contributes to weight loss of 1 pound per week.

Walking up stairs is good for our health. One study among men found those walking eight flights of stairs a day had a 33 percent lower mortality rate compared to those who were sedentary.

So now at work I wear walking friendly shoes — “dress sneakers” — and encourage others to do the same. At home, I often do my chores with a smile and a dual sense of accomplishment.

Source: The Tennessean | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

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