David Sabgir by David Sabgir

What if you had a treasure map that led to the mother lode, but no one cared to look at it? Similarly, what if you knew the key to preventing the number-one killer in the U.S. and no one was listening? And what if that key was as free and simple as going for a walk? How great would that be?

Well, according to a significant amount of research, the key to preventing heart disease is, in fact, simply going for a walk.

How does going for a walk benefit your health? It addresses a lot of risk factors, including:

  • Improves good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Lowers blood pressure (it is recommended to shoot for a top number (systolic) of 120 mm Hg or lower)
  • Aids in weight management
  • Reduces HbA1c (measure for diabetic control)
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces mental stress
  • Reduces the incidence of depression

Combined, these reduced risk factors also lower one’s risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease and dying from all causes. You’d think that would be enough to convince everyone to put on walking shoes and get moving, but that hasn’t been the case.

As a health and fitness professional, you likely need to help your clients find the motivation to get moving, as well as be creative in making exercise more enjoyable. To that end, here are a few suggestions for helping your clients enjoy the benefits of walking on a more regular basis:

  1. Listen to music. It will help you walk longer and faster.
  2. Listen to an audiobook. 
  3. Set a reward for meeting a goal. This could be a night out with friends or a new outfit.
  4. Listen to a podcast. 
  5. Keep a journal, which will help keep your clients accountable. It’s fun to go back and look at all the miles logged walking with friends or the family dog. Penzu is a great way to keep a journal for free online.
  6. Walk audits are a great way to help your city and keep it accountable.
  7. Learn how to use walking as a time to meditate. The benefits of meditating regularly are significant and walking meditation offers added health benefits as well, especially if the walk is through nature.
  8. Exercise with friends—after all, who ever regretted going on a walk with a friend? This is a great time to reconnect and catch up on each other’s lives.

Why not suggest your clients try Walk with a Doc? We are a growing collection (currently 363 chapters in 45 states) of community members passionate about getting the most out of life—every last drop. We meet to hear the doctor, dietician or community leader talk for a couple minutes, maybe ask a question, drink some coffee, and then we go at our own moderate pace and our own distance, usually someplace out in nature.

With Valentine’s Day this month, remind your clients that there is no better gift for their loved ones than ensuring their own health. And walking is just about the easiest way to do it.

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States, and a few years ago, the American Heart Association listed inactivity as a risk factor for the disease. Learn more about the ways exercise can reduce you and your clients' risk of heart disease.