No we aren't talking about "power walking", although it is a healthy way to stay active, we are talking about the powerful benefits of walking as we begin to age.
We know the old adage of "East Less, Move More" to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult to know what exercises and movements are healthy as we age. Walking has been and always will be one of the best exercises at any age. Yes we may move a lot slower as we age, but that movement is key to our health.
Walking: Past & Present
For years, walking was our main form of transportation. People walked everywhere - to visit family, go to work and school, and to run daily errands. As time passed and technology progressed, it seemed like our dependency on other modes of transportation took a toll on our health. We look for the nearest parking spot or drive to the corner store for milk. This new sedentary way of life, although convenient, has led to a rise in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
According to Participaction and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, for older adults aged 65 and older, at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity (like walking) is recommended to improve functional abilities.
Benefits of Walking
So why walking? Well it's inexpensive - you don't need a fancy gym membership, you don't require any equipment, even 10 minutes can make a big impact, and its "easy"! I say "easy" because some of us, as we age, may have mobility concerns or physical limitations, but with proper supports, technique, and mobility aides, we can get moving!
According to American Senior Communities, here are just a few of the many benefits of walking, especially for seniors:
Improves heart health. For seniors, walking offers numerous heart health benefits. Getting your heart rate up daily leads to a reduction in the risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and even coronary heart disease.
Lowers blood sugar. After eating, taking a 15-minute walk has been shown to reduce the after-eating spike in blood sugar some seniors can experience. Your body is using blood sugar more effectively to strengthen muscles, and insulin works better, too.
Reduces pain. Studies have shown that walking helps reduce some pain due to chronic conditions like arthritis. Some seniors experience lower back pain, and walking even just three times a week for around 20 minutes can help strengthen abdominal and back muscles to decrease chronic back pain.
Low participation cost. After you’ve invested in a good, sturdy pair of shoes, you can walk basically anywhere- for free! When the weather permits, head to the park for a stroll on the path or simply walk around your neighborhood. If it’s too cold or rainy to go outside, head to a shopping mall instead.
Promotes social engagement. Walking offers an easy way for seniors to meet up with others, whether you join a walking group with friends or simply engage with neighbors while out on your daily walk. You can meet new people and enjoy your environment each day.
Boosts mental health. A daily walk can help you feel more positive about life. The endorphins released during physical activity create a sense of well-being, reduce anxiety and boost your mood.
So as the weather gets nicer and our freedom of movement improves, take a stroll in the great outdoors...or even just up and down the hallways :)
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