walkingIt's easy to do, delivers substantial health benefits and has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Regular walking is being promoted by the American Heart Association (AHA) as one of the most effective forms of physical activity -- and one that improves heart health.

To motivate would-be exercisers, the AHA has created a free Walking Clubs program.

According to an AHA survey, only 15 percent of American adults achieve the association’s recommended level of moderate aerobic exercise, which is 150 minutes per week. Walking for as little as 30 minutes a day will improve circulation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and promote weight loss.

Joining or forming an American Heart Association Walking Club allows  people to connect with others who share the same fitness goals, lifestyles and schedules. It also makes it more likely that people will follow through on their exercise resolutions; an AHA study revealed that American adults are 76 percent more likely to take a walk if another person is counting on them.

In contrast, research shows 45 percent of gym members will quit going to the gym in a given year and 30 percent will cancel their membership. Gym fees per member average about $765.40 a year.

“I encourage our patients to engage in regular exercise, including moderate-to-vigorous intensity walking programs, and the AHA’s new Walking Clubs are a great resource,” said Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “The accountability and camaraderie Walking Clubs provide will help those that struggle with a regular exercise commitment. Numerous studies have now identified a sedentary lifestyle and/or a low level of fitness as independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  

The AHA believes its Walking Clubs can provide a safe and effective lifestyle intervention to prevent heart disease and stroke.

To join an existing Walking Club or form your own:

1.Visit www.mywalkingclub.org .
2.Click on Learn More.
3.Sign-up by filling out the online form and select which you’d like to do.

If you opt to start a club, you'll serve as an organizer and be responsible for setting up your group and helping spread the word in your community.

Joining an existing club will let you participate in scheduled walks with others, set goals and celebrate accomplishments. Signing up enables you to search for a group based on location or similar interests.