SEATTLE - Spring weather in Washington doesn't always cooperate with outdoor pursuits, but we're used to that. It's time to gather friends and coworkers and hit the pavement today for the American Heart Association's National Walking Day. The goal is to get people moving, in recognition that they're spending more time at work mostly sitting.
Some Washingtonians have signed up to lead "team walks" for 30 minutes. That's all it takes, according to AHA cardiologist Dr. Tracy Stevens, to get on the road to better health.
"We've got that concept, either we've got to be some star athlete or we're a couch potato," said Stevens. "We can't see that anything in between is very good, too."
Stevens advises walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week. While some think running is the best way to get fit, she said, the benefits aren't much greater but the injury risks are. Within the first few minutes of walking, Stevens added, the body releases beneficial hormones.
"Hormones that dilate our blood vessels, and with that, our blood pressure drops," she said. "We burn calories, we help maintain our weight, and we know it reduces one's risk for diabetes."
The AHA reports that one in two men and one in three women are at risk for heart disease, and research shows that poor lifestyle choices are major contributors.
More information on National Walking Day is online at heart.org/nationalwalkingday.