Walking can benefit heart health

New survey reinforces its value

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One-third of adults in America don't know how much they walk in the course of a typical day, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov for the World Heart Federation.

Of the two-thirds of American adults who do know how much they walk during the day, most report they walk briskly for less than half an hour.

This alarms the World Heart Federation because a minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise is recomended to reduce measurably the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies indicate as little as 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can increase life expectancy by up to three years.

There are many different ways to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, but walking may be the best from the standpoint of heart health, according to the federation. People who expend the same amount of energy walking can reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly twice as much as people who jog for an hour each day.

"Paying attention to how much we walk should be as simple as watching what we eat," said Kathryn Taubert, chief science officer of the federation.

The group believes that with smart phones and other electronic devices, it's never been easier to keep track of personal fitness, If people do, they're likely to exercise more. Studies indicate people who wear pedometers increase how much they walk by up to 27 percent.

That's been the experience of Shadyside resident Vicki McElroy, 58. Last November she had points from credit card miles that were about to expire, so she bought a Fitbit.

"It counts your steps, and the flights of stairs you climb," Ms. McElroy said. It also measures how many calories are burned walking and climbing stairs and the quality of sleep, according to the Fitbit's website.

She's recorded more than 1,000 miles since she got her Fitbit, Ms. McElroy said.

"Since I got it, I look for more opportunities to walk."

If she needs just one or two items from a store in the neighborhood or visits a friend, she'll walk when she used to drive, Ms. McElroy said. And when she drives, she deliberately parks farther away from her destination so she can get in a few more steps.

The Fitbit, which comes with a metal clip so wearers can attach it to their belts and a wristband to wear it while asleep, weighs less than a third of an ounce. Ms. McElroy attaches hers to her bra. It's powered by a rechargeable battery. A charge will power the Fitbit for a minimum of five days.

The Fitbit One retails for $99.95 if bought online. But pedometers without so many bells and whistles can be bought from Wal-Mart for as little as $4.97.

YouGov surveyed 7,367 adults in the United States, Britain, Brazil, China, India and Spain. Respondents in Brazil and India walked the most, and were most aware of how much walking they did. Adults in Britain and the U.S. were at the bottom in both.

Jack Kelly: jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.

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