Take charge, reduce your risk of heart disease

Walking makes your heart stronger

During February, Walkingspree would like you to take time to love your heart. Take the time to learn about heart disease and its risk factors, and take action to reduce its threat on your life.

There are some risk factors that you cannot control — your age, sex, race or family history.

But there are many risk factors that you can control: Not smoking, nutrition, diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, inactivity, excessive weight, and stress.

And one of the best ways to help control these risk factors is to walk. In fact, walking has been touted as the best health prevention one can do. Walking can:

  • Reduce your chance of heart disease by 30 percent
  • Reduce your chance of developing diabetes by 50 percent
  • Reduce your cholesterol levels
  • Help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce stress and increase your mood

So, this month, make a point to be more heart healthy, make healthier food choices, and walk at least 30 minutes a day. Doing so will reduce your risk of heart disease dramatically.

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Tips for Winter Walking

Hibernating is for bears, not walkers. Walking in the winter can be a safe and enjoyable experience if you are prepared for the weather and dress correctly. There are some fantastic benefits to walking in the winter. The crisp cold air can clear your mind and reduce stress. Trudging through snow or walking into the wind takes more energy, which can be helpful for weight loss. Here are a few tips to keep you walking:

  • Get your steps in the first half of the day. Waiting until later may make it more difficult to reach your step goal. A brisk walk in the morning or at lunch time is ideal. Select routes sheltered from the wind and elements where possible. Getting outside during daylight hours also increases levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps calm cravings.
  • Dress warmly and feel comfortable. Wearing the right layers and clothing will make your walking experience more enjoyable. In cold weather, 20 to 60 percent of heat is lost through an uncovered head so wear a hat when the temperature drops.-. Your fingers, nose and chin get cold – quickly, so protect them with gloves and a scarf. Dress in layers to keep your body warm and dry. High-tech synthetic fabrics make a big difference in comfort so they’re worth the investment. You’ll be much happier and more energized if you’re warm and dry instead of sweaty and chilled. On windy days start your walk into the wind so you will finish with it at your back. This way, perspiration will not cool your skin and chill your body.
  • Wear the right footwear for the right time of year. Wear warm, water resistant boots. You may want to try ice grips or traction devices on your boots. Select routes that are cleared of snow or ice or do not have standing puddles or mud slicks.
  • Allow at least 10 minutes to warm up. When its cold, your heart and muscles need more time to get ready.
  • Move your feet slightly apart as you walk. This will give you better support and balance. If the street is really slippery, bend your knees a little bit. You may feel that you look funny, but it’s worth it! When going down an incline, consider turning sideways. Do NOT cross one foot over the other, as you will have no balance while your feet are crossed. If the ground is steep, bend your knees.
  • Take your workout indoors if there’s risk of frostbite (temperatures around -20 degrees F, including any wind chill) or if it’s too icy, or if you’d encounter dangerous traffic. Some indoor options include:
    Mall Walking: Your local mall most likely has a mall walking program. Malls are generally open before stores open and can provide a great way to get in those steps. Also a great way to meet up with fellow walkers.
    Indoor Track/Gym: Check with your local schools, community colleges and community centers to see if they have open hours for walkers. Some indoor skating rinks allow walking around the top outside row of bleachers.
    Treadmill Walking: Treadmills and ellipticals are often an ideal way to get add steps to your day.
    Creative Walking at Work and Home: See if your workplace has an indoor walking route or be creative and take the stairs, walk during conference calls, or go to tell a co-worker something instead of sending an email. A recent study found that stepping in place during commercials burned an average 148 calories and resulted in an average 2,111 steps in about 25 minutes.
  • Stay hydrated. You need water in winter as much as in summer. Bring water along to stay hydrated.
  • Share the cold. Walking with a friend, co-worker or even your dog provides company and mental stimulation. You not even notice the cold as you zip along on your winter walk.
  • Reward yourself. Take a long, warm bath to take away the chill and relax your muscles. Or savor a warm mug full of hot cocoa, hot apple cider or hot beverage of your choice. And be sure to upload all those steps to your Walkingspree account weekly. You earned them so make sure they are counted.

As always, wear your pedometer from morning till night and keep stepping! Spring is just around the corner.

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Move Smart! Keep walking instead of hibernating

Overcast skies, more snow and rain in the forecast. Staying motivated during the long dull weeks ahead can be a challenge. So how do you overcome the urge to crawl under the covers or grab the TV remote? Maybe one or two of these tips will do the trick.

  • Set a goal. You did it before, you can do it again. Your pedometer is a great tool for this so make sure you wear it from morning till night.
  • Remember what got you started and embrace that energy again.
  • Grab a buddy, someone who will spur you on, and in turn, you can encourage them.
  • Exercise outside when the sun is shining. The natural sunlight can be a great motivator.
  • Try journaling. Seeing what progress you made, or haven’t made, just might get you up and going.
  • Change up your routine, or find a new one. Your local library has lots of exercise DVDs or maybe your community center has a drop-in zumba or yoga class you always wanted to try.
  • Be nice to yourself. Getting out and exercising when you don’t want to is hard, so reward yourself.
  • Set up a regular time and stick to it. You can get through anything if you know when it will end.
  • Break down your walks to 10 minutes segments (about 1,000 steps) throughout the day. Before you know it you will have reached your goal.
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Move Smart! Set your walking goals the S.M.A.R.T. way

With the New Year comes resolutions and your commitment to walking which is probably the most important thing you can do this year. And goal setting can help you achieve it. Use the following S.M.A.R.T. criteria to develop your goal, review your progress weekly, and you will achieve what you have set out to do.

S – Specific. Define exactly what you want to accomplish. Walk 10,000 steps a day? Great, increase your average daily step count by 20 percent. When you’re comfortable with that, increase that amount by 20 percent. Keep doing this until you reach your goal.

M – Measurable. Upload your steps once or twice a week and use the tools on the Walkingspree website. Monitoring your progress will encourage you to keep going.

A – Adjustable. Be flexible and have a backup plan in case you are not able to get out for your regular walk or catch a cold. Adding 1,000 or so steps a day (about 10-15 minutes more walking time) may be all you need to get back on track.

R – Realistic. Make sure the goal reflects what is attainable for you and not based on comparing yourself to others. This is a lifelong commitment, not a horse race.

T – Time based. Set a deadline, and remember long term changes are achieved when you invest the time.

There will always be days that you don’t meet your goals, but it’s like brushing your teeth. If you forgot one night before bed, you wouldn’t say “I give up. I’m never brushing my teeth again.” Fitness and health is the same way, get back up the next day and start all over again.

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Move Smart! How fast you walk may predict how long you live

How fast you walk may predict how long you live, according to a study from the University of Pittsburg.

Researchers found that elderly people who normally walk faster live longer. And that speed was a more accurate predictor of life expectancy than age or sex and it can help doctors gauge the overall well-being in seniors.

According to the study, people who typically walked 1 meter per second or faster lived longer than expected. (One meter per second is 3.28 feet per second or about 2.25 mph.) The study analyzed the data of more than 34,000 adults who were 65 years of age or older from nine previous studies to find out if walking speed could predict longevity in older adults.

“We’re able to show that a person’s capacity to move strongly reflects vitality and health,” said study researcher Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Walking requires energy, movement control, and support and places demands on multiple organ systems, including the heart, lungs, circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems,” the authors wrote. “Slowing gait may reflect both damaged systems and a high energy cost of walking.”

Researchers pointed out the study was not to get people moving faster, but rather analyze the way and how fast people walk to their overall health.

One way to make sure you retain your gait into your old age is to keep walking every day. The Centers for Disease and Prevention recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking (a pace of three miles per hour or 6,000 steps or more) at least five times a week to improve your overall health and fitness, and reduce your risk for many chronic diseases.

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