Movement is essential in order to have healthy muscles, a healthy mind, and a healthy heart. Of course, as you age, your body is likely to change, making certain movements somewhat limited. From a heart health standpoint, there’s one type of movement in particular that a cardiologist wants all of her patients to begin doing once they hit the age of 50: walking.
Karol Watson, MD, a cardiologist and co-director of the UCLA preventative cardiology program, says that the best exercise for those over 50 is walking. That’s because, as simple as it is, walking is the most foundational, universal workout that practically anyone can do. “The best way to start out [with an exercise program] is with regular walking,” she says. In fact, she says that walking is just as beneficial as any other form of cardio.
“Walking has all of the same health benefits of more intense exercises such as running,” says Dr. Watson. The difference? “You can achieve the benefits faster with, say, running, but the benefits are the same.” Your heart rate goes up: check. Your legs are moving and you’re working all of your muscles: check and check. The elements are all there, but walking happens to be the most accessible, least risky form of exercise for older fitness goers. “Walking is accessible to most everyone and it’s associated with lower rates of injury,” she says. Compared to many other workouts, it’s much easier on the joints since it’s low-impact (versus running, during which you’re pounding the pavement).
Just because walking is so simple doesn’t mean it has to be boring. There are countless ways to spice up your steps. Dr. Watson recommends starting slow and then working your way up to a more brisk pace. Her tip? “Try to get to the pace of the song ‘Staying Alive’.” So you could power walk, or you can stream a walking workout to guide you. You could walk on an incline to up the resistance factor. Holding onto weights can add an arm workout to your steps, or you could even try Nordic walking, which engages more than 80 percent of your muscles.
Before you lace up, however, Dr. Watson recommends checking with your doctor. “If you have any medical conditions, always see your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program,” she says. Other than that, the OG low-impact workout is yours for the taking. *Cue the song “Walk This Way”*
To help you keep track of your walking workouts, watch the video below to learn about the world of heart rate monitors: