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Health: Research Suggests Walking Can Improve Heart Health In Matter Of Weeks

Walking can help heart health.

Heart disease, the leading cause of death in America, can be combatted by implementing a simple walking regimen, according to researchers at Binghamton University-State University of New York.

"Walking is the most portable, easiest way to accomplish getting fit," said Pamela Stewart Fahs, associate dean, professor and Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker chair in rural nursing at the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing. "It's a great way to feel better, to get more energy and help you focus. It's a great stress reliever, too."

While it may seem less rigorous than running or other forms of exercise, walking is an ideal way to get fit. You can do it almost anywhere and you don't need any fancy gear - just a good pair of shoes, Stewart Fahs said.

Walking is an excellent form of exercise, "but research has been mixed on how successful a walking program can be in changing biological markers such as cholesterol, weight, blood pressure," Stewart Fahs said.

About the study

During the study, titled "Walking for Heart Health," volunteers participated in a community walking program and were given programmable pedometers to wear over a 10-week period. They were asked to walk briskly for 150 minutes per week.

After five weeks, participants were invited to attend a talk about heart health and to have their pedometer data downloaded.

Participants were then challenged to increase aerobic activity as well as to improve retention to study completion. This challenge included an increase their total daily average of aerobic steps by at least 10 percent for the remainder of the study.

On completion of the program, participants' weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol were measured. They were also asked to complete a survey about their physical activity, food choices, personal characteristics and behaviors from the 10-week period.

The results of their post-test confirmed the team's initial hypothesis that walking would improve cardiovascular risk factors in the short term.

"Not only were they able to walk further, but they could also walk faster" after the study was completed, Stewart Fahs said. "I believe issuing the challenge (at the halfway point) had a strong effect on the outcome and motivated the participants to be successful."

What's next

While studies such as these are usually conducted and tested in urban or suburban areas, this study was done in a small, rural community. Future research will have randomized sampling with a more diverse population.

"In winter it can be a problem for some people to find warm places to walk," Stewart Fahs said.

If you don't belong to a health club, consider walking at a mall or other community space, she said.

If walking outside, be sure to wear good shoes and dress in layers.

Story Credit: http://www.recordonline.com/news/20170124/health-research-suggests-walking-can-improve-heart-health-in-matter-of-weeks