You already go for a walk every day, which is great for overall health. Regular, brisk walking helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, control blood pressure, strengthen muscles, burn calories, and lift mood. Walking can also help ward off high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
And you can get even more health benefits by adding a few simple upgrades to your daily walk.
Improve Your Balance
To maintain good balance, you need to put it to work regularly. Taking a daily brisk walk is good practice. If walking is easy for you, Dr. Rauch (Harvard University) suggests making it a little harder, to get even more practice and potentially get better at balancing. For example, during a walk you could periodically take about 10 steps walking heel-to-toe. "The narrower your base of support when standing, the trickier it is to maintain your balance," Dr. Rauch says.
Promote Healthy Bones and Muscles
The more gentle stress we place on our bones, the stronger they'll become. The reason: exerting force on the bones stimulates them to add cells, which speeds up the process of building bone mass.
Weight-bearing exercise is a standard way to strengthen your bones, and walking is a weight-bearing activity. Weight lifting is also a good way to strengthen bones. You can combine the two activities for extra oomph by wearing a weighted vest on your walk.
Make Your Heart Work Harder
Walking at a brisk pace is a moderate-intensity activity that makes your heart and lungs work harder. The exertion activates changes in your muscles, metabolism, blood vessels, and brain that contribute to improved heart health.
Your heart and lungs work even harder (and get even more benefit) with vigorous activity — the kind that makes it difficult to talk while working out, such as playing tennis or jogging. But check with your doctor before starting a program of vigorous activity.
One way to make your heart work harder on a walk is by adding arm movements. About 10 minutes into a 30-minute walk, begin raising your arms up and down repeatedly in any way that feels comfortable — such as straight out in front of you (like a sleepwalker in old movies), above your head (like a referee signaling a touchdown), or out to the sides (like you're flying). Try to maintain the arm activity as long as possible, up to 10 minutes. Then continue your walk for another 10 minutes.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Another way to make your heart work harder on your walk is by adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT involves brief bouts of strenuous exercise. It's associated with equal or greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar compared with moderate-intensity exercise. But, again, check with your doctor.
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