Having received a fitness tracker for a holiday gift I decided to do a self-test on how walking might improve my cardiac fitness. Most of us are aware of some of the benefits of walking on a regular basis, and I just wanted to have some numbers that would back up the fact that improvement was occurring. To be simple about it, I decided to track my resting heart rate and the YMCA Bench Step Test for Cardiovascular Fitness.

If you can walk, you can improve your cardiac fitness; and it’s good for the heart AND soul.

The Bench Test tracks the time it takes for your heart rate to return to normal following a period of exercise. You would check your heart rate prior to stepping up and down from a twelve-inch bench at a specific pace for one minute, then rechecking your pulse rate after one minute of sitting. My initial resting heart rate was 66 beats per minute and an age adjusted score on the Bench Test (108 beats per minute) was in the “above average” range.

I initially began my walking routine in January (New Year’s Resolution?), starting with a time of 45 minutes, that gave me a distance of one and one-half miles walking at a rate of two miles per hour.  At that time, I was also in the Cardio Target Heart Rate Zone for 35 minutes of the walk, reaching a peak heart rate of 156 beats per minute. As the effort became easier, I continued to walk for about 45 minutes, but my distance has increased to two miles, at a rate of three miles per hour. I am fortunate to live in an area where my walks are through fields and wooded trails and are quite enjoyable. The mild winter also helped. My new routine became a positive part of my day, something to look forward to.

So, did anything improve? My resting heart rate has decreased to 54 beats per minute. During the walk, now my peak heart rate is 143 beats per minute. Results for the YMCA Bench Step Test now put me in the “excellent range” (74 beats per minute).

There are many factors in cardiac health, but it is nice to have some objective data that positive changes are occurring. Also, I have lost 10 pounds and my most recent cholesterol level has dropped more than 20 points, with absolutely no dietary changes.

Of course, these are just two simple tests and cardiac fitness involves many factors. You should always check with your primary care provider before beginning any exercise.

If you can walk, you can improve your cardiac fitness; and it’s good for the heart AND soul.

~ Jeff Clough, PT

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One thought on “Walking for Heart Health

  • May 6, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Nice testament to the benefits of walking! Help your knees?


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