5 expert-recommended, heart-healthy walking exercises

Tallulah Gorge

Physical activity is important to maintaining overall health, but getting motivated to move can be challenging for many people. Luckily, simply going for a walk can have benefits.

The American Heart Association said, “research has shown that walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease.” It’s recommended that adults incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise into their week, although it’s preferred that they have a combination of both.

For moderate-intensity activity, lifestyle and news website Well + Good has five walking exercises ideal for maintaining heart health. Plus, the workouts are recommended by experts.

Engaging arms while walking

When you walk, you’re usually primarily engaging your legs while your arms likely swing slowly by your sides. But there are ways you can get your arms moving, too, and tone them in the process. You can engage your arms by carrying light dumbbells or add arm weights.

“There are comfortable wrist weights with thumb holes that make it easy to pump your arms while walking,” personal trainer and running coach Meghan Kennihan explained to MyFitnessPal. “The added weight helps strengthen your biceps if you keep your arms bent at 90-degree angles.”


Using nature to guide your walks has its benefits. But hiking can offer options for getting the heart pumping without you realizing it. Likely, you’ll be walking on an incline and you get the added perk of exploring the scenery around you.

“Hiking is a very inclusive activity,” Wesley Trimble, a program manager for the Silver Spring, Maryland-based American Hiking Society, told Newsday. “There definitely is a trail out there for someone who wants to get outside, whether that be a 15-minute walk in the park, or someone who wants to spend a full summer hiking a long-distance trail.”

Nordic walking

This workout involves walking using poles to imitate the action of cross-country skiing to push yourself forward while walking in your neighborhood or along a trail.

“When you walk without poles, you activate muscles below the waist. When you add Nordic poles, you activate all of the muscles of the upper body as well,” Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center told Harvard Health. “You’re engaging 80% to 90% of your muscles, as opposed to 50%, providing a substantial calorie-burning benefit.”

Walking indoors

When the weather is too cold or too hot, indoor walking can be a solid option. Personal trainer and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise Lee Jordan told Prevention magazine that you can take some time to plan how you can walk around your home without bumping into things. Long hallways or a spacious room could be options. There’s also an indoor workout here that can mostly be done by walking in place.

HIIT walking

High-intensity interval training can be applied to walking. Combine comfortable strolls with power walking to reap the benefits. Mayo Clinic reported that in one study, walkers who incorporated higher-intensity intervals to their program enhanced their aerobic fitness, leg strength and blood pressure. They did so by switching between three minutes of power walking and three minutes of leisurely walking for at least 30 minutes four times weekly.