How to look after your heart, get fitter and feel better

When I was 48 I signed up for a 50 mile desert trek across Jordan.  It took me nine months to train for it and that was the start of my journey to fitness.  Now in my mid-fifties I am still walking every day.   If you take little or no exercise at the moment walking is the easiest way to start to get fitter, and look after your heart. . 

The health benefits

There are many health benefits to walking these include:

  • Improved cardiovascular (heart) health

  • Weight loss

  • The loss of fat

  • More muscle tone

  • More stamina

Improved mental health (especially if you walk outdoors)

How far should I walk?

This depends on how much walking you do now.  If the answer to this is very little then you need to start slowly to ensure you do not end up with an injury through over-exertion of the muscles. Perhaps just start with a ten-minute walk in a day.

Another way to start is to monitor your steps on a ‘normal day’.  Your phone or a cheap pedometer will tell you this.  This will be your starting point.  Then think about an ‘end goal’.  For example if you find you walk one mile during a normal day (around 2000 steps) your end goal within one month might be to walk three miles a day (around 6000 steps).  You will then need to build up to your goal adding to your steps every other day.

Start your walk quite slowly and get faster as you warm up, slowing down towards the end is also a good idea to allow a cool down period.

How fast should I walk?

Many years ago I bought a book by Casey Mayers on walking.  He suggests there are three types of walking: strolling, brisk walking and aerobic walking. 

Strolling you can do and not be out of breath, it will take little exertion.   Brisk walking will cause your heart rate to go up and this exertion will use up more calories and build up more muscle than strolling.  Walking briskly for 30-45 minutes can burn 300-400 calories.

Aerobic walking can border on running and will mean you will be physically exerting yourself to the point of being out of breath and you may find it difficult to speak.  Having said all of that if you never walk at the moment you may find a stroll makes you hot and a little breathless.  Remember your starting point is yours and your improvement will be yours too.  Any improvement is good!

What do I need to be mindful of?

If you are suffering from an illness or you have a condition that means you cannot move around well then exercise may not be advisable at the current time.  It is best to check with your GP/Physician.  However often the advice, especially in the recuperation/remission phase of an illness, is now to try and do some exercise, in which case walking is an excellent choice for many.

Not walking for too long or too fast to begin with.  Because walking comes naturally to us it can be easy to over-do it during the first few walks.

Your feet – ensure your walking shoes/boots/trainers fit properly and you are wearing the right socks (either walking socks or sports socks depending on how far you are walking and whether you are wearing walking boots or trainers.) See my blog on beautiful healthy feet.

Remember to drink water as you walk and when you start to walk longer distances you should always stretch afterwards.  Click here for more advice on stretching.

The best way to begin your journey to fitness is to decide on a plan, set a goal and start today!

 Why not join the Fit Over Fifty Challenge Club to get fitter, eat better and be well click here for more information