Physician Q&A: Walk This Way to Better Health

Walk much? Perhaps you should. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should be getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. Walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits, the CDC notes – and it doesn’t require special skills, a gym membership or expensive equipment.

Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

Health and fitness is always top of mind for Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, a part of Baptist Health South Florida. Dr. Friedman serves as team cardiologist for Miami’s Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, and numerous local colleges and universities, and is cardiology consultant to the United States Tennis Association’s Sports Science Committee. Aside from his work helping elite and armchair athletes, his own passions include running, cycling and training.

Dr. Friedman spoke with Resource editors and offered helpful suggestions for would-be walkers on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

Resource: What health benefits can one expect from walking more?

Dr. Friedman: The benefits of walking – or any body movement for that matter – are immeasurable. By engaging in regular walking, one can expect lower blood pressures, blood sugars and cholesterol numbers. Regular movement has also been associated with better mental health, a reduction in anxiety symptoms and an improved ability to handle the stressors that life throws our way.

Resource: If one of your patients said they want to start a walking routine in 2022, what advice would you give them?

Dr. Friedman: Schedule 20 minutes each day to go for a walk. This doesn’t need to be an intense activity – even a slow, conversational pace will work. Make it a social activity with family and friends. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. If you need to go up many floors, mix stairs and elevator if it’s too much of a climb. When driving somewhere, park as far away as possible from your destination so you can get more steps in. For those working from home, find several opportunities during the day to get up, get outside and move around. Not only will this improve your health, but it will improve the quality and focus of your work as well.

Resource: Is it safe for someone to jump right into a walking routine?

Dr. Friedman: For the vast majority, walking is perfectly safe. If you have chronic medical conditions, however, first speak to your physician to make sure it’s safe for you. It’s also important to set realistic expectations. Going from doing nothing to walking for an hour each and every day isn’t easy, so make sure to slowly get into the rhythm. A good starting point is to walk 20 minutes, three times per week, then increase your frequency and length from there. Always listen to your body – if you have any unusual aches or pains, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, dizziness or loss of consciousness while walking, seek medical advice immediately. 

Resource: Is there anything else you’d like to add about walking?

Dr. Friedman: Incorporating more walking into your life is a great thing to do. According to the CDC, regular moderate to vigorous physical activity can decrease your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes. It can also improve your sleep, memory, and ability to think and learn. Although it may be difficult at first for someone who hasn’t been exercising, walking can ultimately lead to improved health and wellness in the long term.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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