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Starting a walking program

Nearly five million Americans suffer from heart disease. One of the safest and easiest ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness is by walking. Walking is an ideal low impact aerobic exercise. If done regularly, it can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, lower total cholesterol, raise healthy HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. It can help maintain healthy bones and muscles, stabilize blood sugar, improve immunity and relieve some of the stress in your life. Walking has become one of the most popular ways to stay fit. It is inexpensive, and all it takes is a little motivation and a comfortable pair of shoes.

According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, men who walk at least half an hour, six days a week, can cut their mortality rate from heart disease in half, compared with those who are sedentary. Studies show similar heart health benefits for women when they exercise regularly.

Walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily can substantially increase energy expenditure or calorie burn, which will help to control weight. When you combine walking with a healthy diet, and strength training routine, you can significantly reduce body weight and body fat levels.

To maximize the benefits of any aerobic exercise, you must sustain your activity for at least 20 to 60 minutes at each session. If you are out of shape, start with a 10- minute walk and gradually add 2 minutes a week until you reach your goal. Be sure to consult with your physician if you are just getting started with an exercise program.

If you don't have 20 minutes to spare, try to do two 10-minute walks. The key to your success lies within yourself, so lace up your sneakers and put one foot in front of the other. You will be one step closer to a healthier lifestyle.

Corinna Maggy is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. She can be reached at corinna@adkbikeranch.com or 605-3549. The information contained within Health Matters is not a substitute for professional medical examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician before starting an exercise program or beginning any nutritional regimen.

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