Walk your way to better heart health, one step at a time
When working on lowering blood pressure or just working for better overall heart health, combining the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan with a regular physical activity program, such as walking or swimming, will help you both shed pounds and stay trim for the long term. You can do an activity for 30 minutes at one time, or choose shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each. The important thing is to total about 30 minutes of activity each day. (To avoid weight gain, try to total about 60 minutes per day.)
● If your blood pressure is moderately elevated, 30 minutes of brisk walking on most days a week may be enough to keep you off medication.
● If you take medication for high blood pressure, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can make your medication work more effectively and make you feel better.
● If you don’t have high blood pressure, being physically active can help keep it that way. If you have normal blood pressure—but are not active—your chances of developing high blood pressure increase, especially as you get older or if you become overweight
or obese or develop diabetes.
Getting started: Your physical activity program can be as simple as a15-minute walk around the block each morning and evening. Gradually build up your program and set new goals to stay motivated. The important thing is to find something you enjoy, and do it safely. And
remember—trying too hard at first can lead to injury and cause you to give up. If you have a chronic health problem or a family history of heart disease at an early age, be sure to talk with your doctor before launching a new physical activity program.
1. Set a schedule and try to keep it.
2. Get a friend or family member to join you. Motivate each other to keep it up.
3. Cross-train. Alternate between different activities so you don’t strain one part of your body day after day.
4. Set goals.
5. Reward yourself. At the end of each month that you stay on your exercise program, reward yourself with something new—new clothes, a compact disc, a new book—something that will help keep you committed. But don't use food as a reward.