Fitness Tips

Want to Boost Heart Health in 2022? A Cardiologist Says It’s as Simple as Walking—Here’s a Plan To Get Started

Photo: Stocksy/Jamie Griffin
Nothing sweetens a sour mood quite like a walk. Whether you're smack-dab in the middle of a stressful deadline or navigating the post-holiday blues, there's a simple satisfaction in putting one foot in front of the other and breathing in the good stuff (also known as "fresh air”). To help you take more strolls no matter the season, we asked Eli Friedman, MD, medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health's Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, for his best advice for taking more steps in 2022.

According to Dr. Friedman, the benefits of walking are, and I quote, "immeasurable." By engaging in regular walking, one can expect lower blood pressures, blood sugars, and cholesterol numbers. Regular movement is also been associated with improved mental health and an ability to handle the stressors that life throws our way, says Dr. Friedman. Not to mention: It just feels good to change up your environment every once in a while, right?

Before you lace up your sneakers, a quick note: "If you have chronic medical conditions, first speak to your physician [before walking] to ensure it is safe," says Dr. Friedman. "Secondly, it is important to set realistic expectations. It is difficult to go from doing nothing to walking for an hour each and every day, so make sure to slowly get into the rhythm." Twenty minutes, three times a week is a great starting point, he adds. Then, you can work your way up to longer distances, and even pick up the pace. "Always listen to your body. If you have any unusual aches or pains, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, dizziness, or loss of consciousness while walking, seek medical advice," says Dr. Friedman.

With that said, here are Dr. Friedman's three choice ways of squeezing in more steps each day. While they may seem simple, checking off all three is a huge accomplishment.

How to walk more today in 3 easy steps

1. Start your timer for 20 minutes and don't stop until the end

"In the work-from-home era, it's more important than ever to find several moments in your day to get up, get outside, and move. Not only will this improve your health, but it will improve the quality and focus of your work as well," says Dr. Friedman. Try saving your favorite playlist or podcast for this quickie, 20-minute walk, or catching up with a friend or your partner while you log your mileage. That way, you'll really look forward to your time outside. And if you're longing for a little more guidance on your steps, make sure to check out Well+Good's Renew Year Fitness Program where we'll walk and run together all month long.

Being able to walk for longer requires getting stronger. Start with this lower-body workout: 

2. Always take the stairs

Gentle reminder: "Skip the elevator and take the stairs. If you need to go up many floors, mix taking the stairs with an elevator ride if it is too much of a climb," says Dr. Friedman. While working from home, you can even walk up and down your building's stairs (if it has them) a few times to get your heart rate up and shake off mid-afternoon lethargy.

3. Park far (far) away from your errands

You've heard the old piece of advice to park your car at the outskirts of the grocery store parking lot, but you can really take this to the extreme. For example, park one mile away from the pharmacy if you need to pick up your prescription, or leave your car at home and walk to the mall (if it's not too far away). In short, get creative about how you get to and from your errands. You'll walk more... and save money on gas. And hey, that's something worth celebrating.

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