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Heart Health

Revitalize your walking routine

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Need some motivation to maintain your commitment to this heart ‑friendly exercise? Try these suggestions.

photo of a woman and man walking for fitness; they are dressed for cold weatherTaking a daily walk is a great way to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. This simple, do-anywhere exercise can lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and control blood sugar. "Walking for 20 to 30 minutes a day can cut your risk of heart disease by about 30%," says Dr. Lauren Elson, a physiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

But if your regular neighborhood jaunt starts feeling a little humdrum, you might need some extra inspiration to keep lacing up your walking shoes each day. If you’re interested in further enhancing your cardiovascular health, add some short bursts of fast walking to your workout, suggests Dr. Elson, who is the medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Walking for Health (/WALK). If you always walk at the same pace, your body adapts to that activity level, and the heart-related benefits start to plateau. Alternating short periods of fast walking with equal or longer periods of slower walking (a practice known as interval training) can ramp up your cardiac fitness in a shorter amount of time. Other strategies you can try (alone or in combination with interval training) include distractions or goals — along the journey or at the destination.

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss


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Walking for Health

The simple activity of walking has so many powerful health benefits. Done correctly, it can be the key to losing weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting your memory, as well as reducing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Walking for Health, created by the experts at Harvard Medical School, takes you step-by-step from why walking may be the most perfect exercise, to how to get started on a walking program, to specific walking workouts. It even has a special section on walking for weight loss.

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