A Great Exercise for Seniors: Walking
For most people, walking is as natural as breathing or talking. Sure, you may have days when your pace is a little slower or your joints complain a bit more than others, but generally, walking is an activity you probably don’t think much about; it’s just something you do. That’s why so many older adults are surprised to learn about the health benefits of walking for seniors – there are more than you might expect!
You’ve probably noticed nearly every time the subject of wellness arises, you hear about the importance of physical activity and exercise. Hitting the gym for a sweaty workout may not be your cup of tea, but making a daily walk part of your exercise routine will help you reap the many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Walking for Seniors
Walking offers a wide range of benefits, from managing your weight to improving your mobility to reducing your risk for numerous conditions and diseases. It’s among the easiest exercises for seniors, requiring no particular skill and no special equipment other than good walking shoes.
Weight Control: As you age, your body becomes less efficient at burning calories. Aerobic exercise is an effective way to burn calories — as many as 150 calories in one brisk 30-minute walk. Research has shown another weight-related health benefit of walking for seniors: just 15 minutes of walking can curb your cravings for sweets.
Mobility Improvement: It may seem counterintuitive, but one health benefit of walking for seniors is its role in reducing joint pain, especially in your knees and hips. Walking helps strengthen a painful joint’s surrounding muscles and lubricates the joints themselves. Low-impact exercise gets your blood flowing, which feeds nutrients to the cartilage protecting your joints. The lower-body muscle tone you gain from walking can also help improve your balance, preventing your risk of falls, and resulting in more fluid movement overall. In addition, walking can help strengthen your bones, offsetting the impact of osteoporosis.
Risk Management: Regular physical activity, even a simple activity like walking, is associated with a lower risk of numerous conditions, including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Walking is especially useful in cardiovascular disease prevention; even those who only engage in leisure walking can lower their risk for cardiovascular disease.
Mood Lifter: Exercise doesn’t just give you a physical boost; your brain releases chemicals during exercise that can lift your mood, too. The chemicals — endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, in particular — act as natural pain and stress relievers, while promoting a greater sense of well-being. Focusing on an activity like walking can provide a healthy distraction from your worries, and the pride in accomplishment from your workout can be a mental health benefit.
Brain Power: Walking can even impact your brain health and memory. Researchers found improved memory and blood flow to the brain in middle-age and older people who had early signs of memory loss and began walking regularly.
Get the Most Out of Your Walk
One great advantage of walking is how easily you can modify your workout on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. Adapting your walking style to your mood and physical abilities is a smart approach; the key to achieving the health benefits of walking for seniors is to keep moving, whatever your pace.
Another important tip for your daily walk is to wear quality shoes with good traction and support. A good fit is also a must; that means no pain or rubbing that could result in blisters or other sore spots. If you’ll be using a cane or walker, be sure it’s in good condition and the rubber tips are secure to prevent slipping.
Before starting a new exercise routine of any kind, it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about any limitations or concerns that could affect your workout. You should also monitor for symptoms that could arise, such as pain or shortness of breath, and report problems to your doctor.
Make Wellness a Way of Life
Walking can be a solo activity, but it doesn’t mean you need to tackle your wellness journey alone. Making your home in a senior living community that values wellness is an easy way to find walking buddies who make your walking workouts more fun. What’s more, a wellness-minded community is a good place to access resources that promote healthy living and help you achieve a better quality of life.
Retirement Center Management’s senior living communities in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Carolina offer amenities and activities, such as resident walking clubs, that make it fun to stay fit and active. Other resources, like Live Life Well TV, provide senior-friendly tips that promote mental, physical and social health. Contact us to learn more about our multidimensional approach to health and wellness.