Is Walking Enough Exercise If It Doesn’t Make Your Heart Race? We Asked a Cardiologist
According to Michael Weinrauch, MD, a New Jersey-based cardiologist, the bottom line is that even the smallest neighborhood loop can have an immense impact on your health and well-being. "The take home point here is that even 15 minutes a day of walking, without stopping, provides benefit with regards to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality," he says. Morbidity refers to illness or disease, while mortality refers to death. Research has associated 15 minutes of activity with a 22 percent lower risk of death (mortality), and walking with a 43 percent reduced risk in stroke and reduction the risk factors of heart attack (morbidity), regardless of how fast your heart is beating. "Keep in mind, most of the research that has been done on the benefits of walking have been done without monitoring heart rates during physical activity. Remember, the Fitbit and smart watch apps are still actually a relatively new phenomenon," adds Dr. Weinrauch. Long story, short: The morbidity and mortality benefits of walking seem to occur regardless of your heart's beats per minute (BPMs).
"The take home point here is that even 15 minutes a day of walking, without stopping, provides benefit with regards to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality." - Michael Weinrauch, MD, cardiologist
With that being said, you can increase your cardiovascular fitness by increasing your heart rate and going longer distances—and that may offer even more benefits when it come to morbidity and mortality. "Cardiovascular fitness or aerobic fitness can be defined as a measurement of the body's ability to deliver oxygen to its muscles," explains Dr. Weinrauch. "VO2 Max, which is the maximum rate that oxygen can be consumed during exercise that increases in intensity, is the gold standard for measurement of fitness." However, it's really up to you how "fit" you want to be. If you're someone who wants to build up your VO2 max so you can run a marathon, fantastic. And if you're someone who's content with a brisk walk to your favorite coffee store, that's also great.
"The bottom line is, if you are walking to improve your health, do not worry about how high to raise your heart rate. If you are interested improving your cardiovascular fitness in addition to improving your health, then more vigorous exercise training will likely be necessary," Dr. Weinrauch says. It's the choose your own adventure of fitness. And regardless of your choice, you're still collecting those morbidity and mortality benefits as long as you clock your 15 minutes each day.
Make sure to stretch after you walk!
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