More than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said that “Walking is a man’s best friend,” and study after study confirms that he may be right – at least in terms of preventing heart disease.
As World Heart Day approaches on September 29, the World Heart Federation urges people around the globe to become more aware of this simple act – walking – as it may help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A recent survey, which questioned adults across six countries, claims that between 14 and 37 percent of adults do not keep track of the amount of daily walking they do.
"Awareness is the first step to a healthy heart,” Dr. Kathryn Taubert, the Chief Science Officer of the World Heart Federation, said. “Paying attention to how much we walk should be as simple as watching what we eat.”
The survey was conducted in the U.S., Brazil, China, India, Spain and the U.K. It released that about 55 percent of people complete less than 30 minutes of “brisk walking” per day. It is typically believed that a half hour’s worth of aerobic exercise can greatly reduce the risk for heart disorders.
Interestingly, the survey found that in the U.S. and the U.K., one in three adults did not pay attention to the amount of walking they do per day in comparison to only one in six adults in India. Likewise, people in the U.S. and the U.K. also walk at a brisk pace less than people living in undeveloped nations.
Indeed, studies have confirmed that walking can improve hearth health – but the act of walking at a quicker pace is the key. According to the Cardiovascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, walking as aerobic exercise is possibly one of the easiest ways to get in those 30 minutes of activity every day. Walking 3 to 4 miles per hour, for 30-60 minutes several days a week, can assist in strengthening the heart, improving blood circulation, and bringing more oxygen to organs.
“On World Heart Day, we are urging people to take action to protect their hearts,” Dr. Taubert said. “By reaching the recommended guideline of minimum 30 minutes of moderate exercise, which includes brisk walking at least five days a week, many premature deaths can be prevented."
In addition to increasing life expectancy, burning calories, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, walking can be even better for the heart than other forms of intensive exercise like running – it provides the benefits of mild exercise without the risk of injury.
"Your feet can carry your heart very far in life", Dr, Srinath Reddy, President of the World Heart Federation, said.