Thousands of Americans are lacing up their sneakers today and walking as part of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual National Walking Day.

“Studies have suggested that moderate physical activity has many proven benefits for an individual’s overall health, such as lowering blood pressure, increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol and controlling weight,” according to the AHA. “All these changes help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers."

Week by week

The AHA will kick-off a month long campaign today -- broken down into weekly themes -- to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle by increasing their physical activity routines. Week one focuses on walking and the basic tools you need to get started. Because it’s easy, free and low-risk, walking is the simplest form of exercise you can do and the gateway exercise to other, more vigorous, activities. Week two and three focus on recreational sports and outdoor family activities, respectively, and week four centers around stress reduction and mindful movement, such as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi.

“Walking is a great way to increase awareness about the importance of physical activity, “ said Robert Eckel, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Past President of the American Heart Association. “And by getting the entire family involved, you can help keep everyone on track to leading a healthier life. Walking can be done at home, at the gym, at work…all you need are comfortable shoes and 30 minutes. Grab your friends and co-workers too. They’ll thank you later!”

Goals to aim for

The AHA recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity or a combination of both each week. Be part of the movement and register for your free toolkit at For more information about walking and living a healthy lifestyle, visit: