Walking is Smart Exercise for Seniors


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You don’t have to walk far and you don’t have to walk fast, but you really should walk.  According to a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, you can get the same health benefits walking as you can by running.  The calories burned by both walking and running were equally effective when it came to the health benefits to the cardiovascular system.

Getting older comes with certain concerns, such as the worry about developing a disability or losing independence.  A 2008 study from the University of Georgia found that seniors who walked on a regular basis actually reduced their risk of developing a physical disability by up to 41%.  

Is it okay to go for a walk if you have arthritis?

Many people think that if you have arthritis pain that staying away from regular physical activity can help, but the opposite is true.  The Arthritis Foundation states that walking can help reduce stiffness and inflammation. The simple movement of the hips while walking is tremendously helpful in reducing inflammation and reducing arthritis pain, while lubricating both the hip and knee joints.  Walking can also help you lose weight and keep your bones nice and strong.   As always, check with your doctor to make sure you are able to walk safely.

Healthy heart benefits of walking

The American Heart Association/American College of Sports Medicine currently recommend that able-bodied adults exercise for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days per week and do more intense aerobic exercise 3 days per week for 20 minutes.  The cardiovascular benefits of walking include:

  • better cholesterol management
  • improved blood pressure
  • Improved diabetes management
  • reduced vascular stiffness and inflammation
  • reduced stress
  • protection against dementia
  • protection against peripheral artery disease
  • better weight management

Prepare for walking with the correct footwear.Look for walking shoes designed for walking.  The shoes should have a moisture-resistant insole, and the sole should be shock-absorbent.  The shoe itself should be light and breathable, and it should fit comfortably if you are wearing a thick sock.

Warming up and stretching before a walk is important

If you have not walked far in a long time, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to walk for exercise.  Take a few minutes to stretch a little before and after your walk to warm up your muscles and to prevent stiffness or any cramping. 

Remember your health concerns

If you take any medication or have any medical concerns, you should make sure to take your medication with you. If you are a diabetic, be sure to plan your meals around your walk and take a snack with you.  Taking a bottle of water with you is also a good idea.

Let someone know where you are walking in case they need to get hold of you or in case you become ill.

This is not a race, so walk slow and enjoy walking at a pace that is both safe and comfortable for you.  If the weather is hot or cold or rainy out, consider walking in a mall. In fact, many malls now have seniors walking groups, so contact your local shopping mall and see if there is a program you can join.

Enjoy your walk!  Walking is good for the mind, the body, and your spirit.  You will feel good doing something for your body and enjoying the fresh air.  Even if you’re only able to walk for 5-10 minutes, never give up doing what you love.

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