You probably know that regular physical activity plays a big part in heart health, but if you haven’t been active in a while, you might wonder where to start. Before you worry about joining a gym or signing up for fitness classes, remember that walking offers a simple, low-cost way to get active on a regular basis.\nRegular walking can benefit your heart \u2014 and overall health \u2014 in many ways.\nHow Walking Helps Your Heart\nWalking is a low-impact activity that can help improve your overall health. According to the American Heart Association, regular walking can not only help you fight serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, but it may also lower your risk for osteoporosis, breast cancer, and colon cancer.\nWhether you’re hoping to prevent heart disease or walking as part of a heart disease treatment plan, regular walking can help you control and manage several risk factors for heart disease by helping you:\n\nLower your blood pressure\nControl your cholesterol level\nManage your blood sugar level\nLose weight, or stay at a healthy weight\nCope with stress in a healthy way\n\nStart Walking for Heart Health\nBefore you start walking for heart health, take a trip to your doctor’s office to make sure walking is a safe activity based on your medical history and fitness level.\nYour doctor can tell you how often you should walk, and for how long. He or she may suggest that you follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults, which include:\n\n30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking at least five days per week for overall cardiovascular health\n40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking three to four days per week to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol\n\nOnce your doctor says it’s safe to start walking, all you’ll need is a pair of comfortable shoes. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable clothes that are brighter in color, so you’ll be more visible to drivers, bicyclists, and other walkers.\nTips for Walking for Heart Health\n\nStart slow. Go for a 5 to 10-minute walk at first, then slowly add more time or distance as you get more comfortable walking on a regular basis.\nBreak up your walks throughout the day If you don’t have 30 to 40 minutes, you can break up your walks into 10-minute sessions.\nSet reasonable goals. Decide how often you want to walk and for how long. For example, you may want to walk for 30 minutes three times per week, then increase to four times per week or five times per week as you reach your goals.\nWalk where you feel comfortable. You may want to walk in your neighborhood, at a local park, or at the nearest shopping mall. If you’re walking outside, stick to sidewalks or well-lit walking paths and always be aware of your surroundings.\nAsk a friend to join you. Walking with a buddy can help you stay motivated and safe.\nConsider joining a walking program or group. Supervised walking programs, like the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s Walk with COACH program, can help you stay motivated.\n\nTo learn more about the Walk with COACH and how walking strengthens the heart, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).