Walk Until Your Heart’s Content – Start on National Wear Red Day – #GoRed
Posted on February 6, 2015
By: Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December. A magical thing And sweet to remember ‘We are closer to spring Than we were in September’ …” – from I Heard a Bird Sing by Oliver Herford.
If that poetic verse is true of December, it most certainly applies in the deep of a February winter, with feet of snow on the ground and more predicted to fall. Around this time of year, almost every popular women’s and health magazines arrive on the stands, or online, with springtime in sight, featuring articles about the benefits of walking which is recognized as an excellent activity for heart health.
What better time to begin to make fitness walking a way of life than in February, American Heart Month. And what better day to take that first step than today, National Wear Red Day. Held the first Friday of each February, Wear Red Day is meant to call attention to the fact that heart disease does not only effect men. According to the American Heart Association, every year one out three women die of heart disease and stroke. However, since the first Wear Red Day in 2003 progress has been made as awareness has been raised.
“… 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifetsyle changes,” as noted on the American Heart Association website, https://www.goredforwomen.org/wearredday .
Walking is typically part of daily life, so walking your way to good health makes sense. Even in cold weather it is possible to get a jumpstart on spring by walking bundled up with scarves and mittens on paths cleared of snow and ice, on indoor tracks, or at the local mall. Experts say putting one foot in front of the other is one of the most effective ways to improve overall health. And, it is a form of exercise that requires little more than a pair of well-constructed shoes.
In an informative article titled, “Can You Walk Your Way to Fitness? You Bet. Get Started Today” published by mayoclinic.org, it is noted that walking on a regular basis can help maintain a healthy weight, and prevent or manage a number of conditions – including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. In addition, walking is credited with having the propensity to strengthen bones and lift moods, as well as, improve balance and coordination.
The best “fitness stride” is described as characterized by “good posture and purposeful movements” with the neck, shoulders and back relaxed, not stiff, as arms swing “freely” with a slight bend at the elbows. Optimally, stomach muscles should be slightly tightened and the back kept straight – not arched forward or backward. A smooth gait, rolling the feet forward “heel to toe” is recommended.
Well-constructed shoes are important to provide proper support. It is wise to choose a route that is also smooth, rather than riddled with cracks in the sidewalk, potholes or “uneven turf” notes mayoclinic.org. Be sure to warm up – which means starting with a slower pace then advancing to a brisker one after about ten minutes, and follow the same rule at the end of the walk – warm down – then do some gentle stretching.
The Department of Health & Human Services advises, spreading out over a week, at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly, basically 30 minutes daily, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity, mayoclinic.org points out. Mixing in strength training and cross training can be beneficial, they add.
Abouthealth.com notes too, walking can be a mood lifter, a spiritual boost relieving stress and even helping to tackle depression. (Prayerwalking is a growing phenomenon. Essentially, it involves paying attention to the surrounding communiy and its residents while walking, and praying for the needs of that community.)
Both mayoclinic.org and Abouthealth.com suggest setting small goals and building up stamina over a period of time while concurrently developing a healthy diet plan and getting enough sleep. A pedometer and maintaining a walking journal are useful to keep track of progress, experts further note. For those interested in working towards walking in half or full marathons, respectively 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles, it is easy enough to search them out online – many are associated with fundrasing towards worthy causes.
The American Heart Association states that over the past ten years statistics have improved and “nearly 300 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke”, a drop of 30 percent in one decade. The association credits lifestyle changes including, making a healthy behavior change, losing weight, increased exercise, a change in diet and checking cholesterol levels.
Remember a little self-forgiveness can go a long way in keeping stride. Don’t throw in the towel due to a missed walk, simply get back to it the following day. Since one of the biggest rewards from walking is said to be reduced heart risks – walk until your heart is content.
*As with all forms of exercise, check with a physician before getting started.