Lace Up and Go: Walking to Heart Health

Every journey starts with a single step. Sure, it’s cliché, but at their root, most clichés have some truth behind them. And many journeys include some unexpected stops along the way. I know my journey to optimal heart health has.

About a month ago, I picked up a fitness tracker. It’s basic; no bells, no whistles. It sits on my wrist and does nothing but keep tabs on how much I move and sleep every day. I wasn’t sure how (or if) it would fit into my daily routine, but it wasn’t expensive and I figured once I had all that information I’d decide what to do with it.

At first I didn’t change anything, just went about my days normally. After a few days, though, the competitor in me decided to see if I could move just a little bit more than the week before. Slowly but surely the parking spaces at the end of the lot started looking better than the ones by the doors. Making a second trip to carry everything upstairs made more sense than loading up to do it in one.

There are only so many hours in a day though, and spending eight or nine of them sitting at a desk doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for everything else. It was time to figure out how to fit a little more activity into the work day. By coming in a few minutes earlier, taking a little shorter lunch break and leaving a couple minutes later, I found an extra 20 minutes. Ten for the morning, ten for the afternoon – the exact amount of time it takes to walk around the block.

Remember those unexpected stops along the way? One of those was realizing that by taking short walking breaks I’m getting way more work done now! They help keep me focused and provide something to look forward to – a technology time-out perfect for gathering my thoughts and looking ahead to the next task at hand. And on top of that I’m crushing those step counts from a few weeks ago.

April 6 is the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day, the kick off to a month-long celebration designed to help us all become more active. Everyone is encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk.

To improve overall cardiovascular health, the AHA recommends an average of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes; three conditions that can increase the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. One recent study even found that walking can be as effective as running.

I’ll be hitting the pavement on April 6, and I know the staff at ProMedica will too. I hope you’ll join us. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a lap around the block.

What are you tricks and tips for getting more steps into your day? Share your experience in a comment below.

sean_dreher_headshotSean Dreher has been the communications director for the Toledo and Northwest Ohio Division of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association since 2015.