The Benefits of Walking for Seniors
For many years, the first Wednesday in April has been deemed National Walking Day, a day to bring awareness to the many health benefits of this low-impact exercise. However, this day, originally sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA), has evolved into the Move More, Live More movement. Instead of just one day of the month, the entire month of April is now dedicated to celebrating physical activity and encouraging “all Americans to commit to being more active on a regular basis,” according to the American Heart Association website.
In article on www.LATimes.com, research revealed that walking is the number one workout around the world — with 70 percent of people naming walking as their “primary form of fitness.” And it’s no wonder. Walking is an ideal way for people at any age and of any fitness level to get fit. For seniors, walking is a great way to become more physically active; it requires nothing more than just a good pair of walking shoes; it’s very easy adjust pace and distance to each individual; and it can be done practically anytime, anywhere!
The American Heart Association suggests that walking at a “lively pace” for at least 150 minutes each week (which amounts to just more than 20 minutes per day), has incredible benefits including improved blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels; increased energy and stamina; improved mental and emotional well-being as well as memory; and reduced risk of specific diagnoses such as depression, dementia, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even several types of cancer. Walking can also help people “think better, feel better and sleep better,” according to the AHA.
Walking can also help seniors strengthen their muscles and maintain bone mass, which is lost through age. Loss of bone mass can result in brittle bones and bone breakage and lead to osteoporosis. For those that suffer with circulation problems, walking is the solution! Poor circulation can lead to problems and pain associated with swelling and water retention. However, research supports that walking approximately 30 minutes a day can reduce blood pressure (along with swelling and water retention) in those with hypertension.
In addition to other benefits such as helping seniors lose weight and even leading to a longer life, walking can also lower seniors’ risk of Alzheimer’s. According to an article on the Arthritis Foundation website, researchers at the University of Virginia Health System found that men ages 71 to 93 that walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had “half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less.”
Seniors can easily add short walks into each day by simply walking around their neighborhood, taking the dog for a walk, parking further away when grocery shopping, taking an extra loop or two around a shopping center or walking to church, a nearby restaurant or a friend’s house instead of hopping in the car to drive a mile or so down the road.
Before starting any new physical fitness plan, seniors should seek the advice and approval of their physicians. These experts know their patients’ state of health and medical history and therefore can suggest the best way for seniors to start a walking routine that best suits their specific needs.