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Walk Away From Heart Disease

Brisk but comfortable pace helps your cardiovascular health

TUESDAY, Nov. 11, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A brisk but comfortable walking pace is a good way to strengthen your heart.

That's the claim of a University of Massachusetts study presented Nov. 11 at the American Heart Association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

"A large segment of the population still believes exercise must be vigorous, demanding or involve more complicated activities than walking to adequately raise one's heart rate. This perception of 'no pain, no gain' can discourage people from starting to exercise at all," says study investigator Kyle McInnis, a University of Massachusetts professor, in a prepared statement.

McInnis and his colleague studied 72 obese women and 12 obese men, average age 41, who sought professional advice on safe levels of exercise.

"These were middle-aged people like many others. They were between 30 and 100 pounds overweight, with below-average aerobic endurance, and had been thinking about starting to exercise and lose some weight," McInnis says.

On the first visit, the study volunteers had their heart rate and oxygen use measured while they walked on a treadmill with a gradually increasing steepness until they became fatigued. On a different visit, the volunteers were told to maintain a brisk but comfortable pace while they walked a mile on the treadmill.

They completed the walk in an average of 18.7 minutes with an average speed of 3.2 miles per hour. During this self-paced walk, all the volunteers achieved recommended levels of exercise intensity, based on their previous heart measures.

The AHA recommends that people regularly take part in moderate-to-vigorous exercise that boosts heart rate to more than 55 percent of its maximum.

"Comparison with the treadmill tests showed that when participants self-selected a speed that was comfortable but brisk, their heart rate and level of exertion was in a safe range but high enough to improve their cardiovascular fitness," McInnis says.

"You really can get your heart rate up to the level that your doctor would recommend, and you don't have to jog or run to do it," he adds.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about exercise and your heart.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 11, 2003
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