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Walking offers cardio exercise, benefits brain, body, muscles | Health And Wellness

Brisk walks on a regular basis offer great health benefits for cardiovascular fitness and for strengthening bones and muscles.

“I wouldn’t know how far, but how long walking,” said Dr. Michael Dougherty of Steward Family Medicine on Merritt Island. “I recommend 100 to 300 total minutes for the week (about an hour and 40 minutes), or you can break it down, or 150 minutes in three days.

“You should be able to have a conversation of four or five words (at a time) with someone before stopping for a breath. If someone can continue to talk, then that person is not walking fast enough to get a true cardiovascular health workout. Walking on an incline can increase cardiovascular effort without having to impact the joints.”

But how do you get started?

“I suggest doing it with a friend, partner or significant other, coworker, someone to be held accountable to each other, more of a social thing to do,” Dougherty said. “It is easier to push yourself when the other person is counting on you to do so.”  

The doctor reminds walkers that you cannot go into it at the start with unrealistic expectations. If you were not walking on a regular basis before, it could be more difficult than you expect. He suggests minimal impact to begin so as not to get discouraged.

“Part of walking is having a tight core and standing up straight,” said Cristina Vigne, the co-owner of CrossFit Cocoa Beach. “I have a mother who is 72 and I would make sure she walks four or five times a week and then change up 30 minutes or walk for two miles.”

She said that at other times, you should focus on distance. Walk easily and be able to talk with friends. Then go fast to moderate or slow. If you do it the same every day, your body gets used to it. As you age, part of the exercise you want is primarily focusing on walking and changing distance, time and speed.

“Exercise has always been a part of my life,” said Mary Monroe of Melbourne. “I can walk any time of day and it is flexible. I like to do 10,000 steps a day, and there are weeks I adjust and do 7,500 on other days and 10,000 three days a week. I have pound weights that I do every day with my arms and do leg lifts every day to round it out. I recommend you do anything, just do something for exercise.”

Dougherty said the key is to get your target heart rate up for your age group for 150 to 300 minutes of that target for the week.

“If you start out early, you stop dementia and arthritis,” he said. “It is never too late to start doing something for your health.