Walking, the most basic of exercises, just requires some comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes. You don’t need a trainer, a gym, or an expensive machine—just your neighborhood, or a park and path will do. You can even take your dog. And walking is one of the best exercises to benefit your overall health, particularly for older adults.

Walking Benefits

What does walking do for your body and mind?

  • Strengthens muscles
  • Promotes a healthy weight
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Strengthen bones and helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Promotes joint health
  • Improves sleep
  • Lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes
  • Improves balance and coordination—important for preventing falls
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Raises your energy levels
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Makes you feel good about yourself

These benefits enable you to live independently and safely in your home. Studies have shown that it may also slow cognitive decline and dementia.

Another bonus to walking is the people you meet while out on your walk, as you talk to friends and neighbors. And social interaction is another key to good health for older adults. According to Harvard Health Publishing: “A strong social life has been linked with many health benefits, like less risk of depression and longer lifespan.”

Preparing to Walk

If you are starting a walking program, please consult your physician first. If he or she has any concerns about your walking for exercise ask if there are some alternative activities you can perform. Although walking has many benefits for seniors, precautions must be taken to ensure that is the case for you.

Start slow, especially if you haven’t exercised for a while. Walk for 10 minutes, and see if you can gradually walk up to 30 minutes per day, five days a week. The pace doesn’t have to be strenuous. The benefits of walking can be had at a moderate intensity exercise level. That level of exercise is defined in various ways. The simplest explanation is that moderate level activity means you can still talk but not sing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on exercise intensity levels.

Walking

If after starting your walking program you develop symptoms like the following, contact your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Sores than won’t heal

Starting a new exercise may create some muscle soreness, but persistent pain anywhere in your body can be a warning sign. If you develop problems with your feet, talk to your doctor or a podiatrist.

Wear good walking shoes that fit well and are comfortable. Also if you use a cane or walker, that doesn’t mean you can’t walk. Use them to help you with your balance and take some of the load off your joints.

Maintain a safe distance, and take a friend along. This will help keep you motivated by making the walk more pleasant. Additional motivation may be found by setting goals like walking to a nearby park or a place with a beautiful view. While out driving, scout out a new route with fresh sites to enjoy during a walk. Even in familiar areas you will be surprised by the details you will see when you are out walking.

Walking has been proven to help seniors live longer, and help them live better. See if you can add some steps to your life.

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