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Walking isn’t the most intense form of aerobic exercise, yet it still checks all the boxes for promoting cardiovascular health. In fact, a 2013 study of 49,005 participants published in an American Heart Association journal reported that equivalent doses of walking and running led to “largely equivalent” risk reductions for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

“By walking, a person is deliberately increasing their heart rate and engaging their cardiovascular system in a meaningful and purposeful way,” says Eli Friedman, MD, medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

To increase the cardio­vascular challenge, increase your pace, walk up and down hills, or set your treadmill at an incline, advises Jason Stella, NASM, PES, CES, Life Time national education manager. (You can also add a weighted pack to elevate the strength and endurance effects of your daily walk. Learn more at “What Is Rucking? Tips to Getting Started.”)

To increase the cardio­vascular challenge, increase your pace, walk up and down hills, or set your treadmill at an incline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a brisk walking pace for most people is 3 miles per hour. But what matters more is how hard you’re working: For exercise to be considered moderate intensity, the CDC says your heart rate should be between 64 and 76 percent of your maximum heart rate.

If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, aim for a pace that feels quicker than normal or more challenging for you. On a rate of perceived exertion scale (1 corresponding to very easy and 10 to very difficult), aim for a 3 or 4. At this effort level, you’ll still be able to engage in conversation but your breathing will be slightly labored, making it more difficult than chatting over a cup of tea.

“If you feel good, it’s working. This can be followed more closely by watching trends for heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood-sugar readings over time,” says Friedman.

“Simply getting up and moving the body with purpose will have health benefits. Yes, the more someone does, the better. But we should not let that be a barrier to beginning. Ultimately, we want to try to get to 150 minutes of walking or more per week.”

Born to Walk!

Going for a walk — though often underrated and underappreciated — is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health. Learn all the ways walking supports your overall health and well-being at “The Powerful Health Benefits of Walking,” from which this article was excerpted.

Nicole Radziszewski

Nicole Radziszewski is a writer and personal trainer in River Forest, Ill. She blogs at

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