Paying close attention to your heart rate is very important during walking. Walking programs can take you down the road to increased health and fitness, but since your body is like no one else's, you'll need your own personal guide to tell you where to begin and how much physical effort to contribute.
Your best bet? Follow your heart and listen to your body. Your heart rate can tell you when you're working hard enough to increase your aerobic fitness. Your body lets you know how hard you are working: If it feels like too much to you, you're probably pushing too hard.
Exercise physiologists have figured out a heart rate range that is safe for most people during exercise. They call this your target heart rate range. This range tells you your optimum level of exertion during exercise. That doesn't mean you can't get any health or fitness benefits by exercising below or above that range. It's just that keeping your heart rate in the target range during regular aerobic exercise has been shown to be safe and effective for increasing your aerobic fitness.
Exercising above this range can be very uncomfortable and may increase your risk of injury. In fact, if you've been inactive, it's best to start gradually, with a heart rate that may even be below your target heart rate range.
But how do you find your target heart range? We'll answer this question in the next section.
To learn more about walking, see: