Walking is one of the simplest exercises for seniors. Unlike other forms of exercise, it does not require expensive and bulky equipment. It also does not require a lot of effort, so seniors who are wary of physical activity need not worry so much about starting (or failing) an exercise regimen.
Since walking is relatively easier on the fragile body of older people, they can be more open to doing it. It’s so easy that walking can be incorporated into their day-to-day routine.
Many studies back up the health benefits of walking. Here are just some of the advantages:
- Brisk walking for half an hour five times a week can reduce your risk of heart disease, bone and joint problems, and diabetes.
- Walkers tend to live longer than those who are sedentary. They also have significantly less stress and enjoy a better quality of life than their inactive counterparts.
- Walking improves the memory of older people, including those who are at early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
- It increases physical function and reduces the risk of disability among seniors.
- Walking enhances flexibility, balance, coordination and mobility. It improves gait among older people and lessens the risk of falls.
- It reduces the impact of existing diseases by boosting immune function.
- Walking offers social opportunities for seniors who are in danger of being isolated due to their condition.
No doubt about it, walking has excellent benefits for older people. If you or your loved one is planning an exercise program that’s not too demanding, then you should seriously consider walking. Talk to your physician or therapist about how a walking program is feasible for a senior. There may be medical constraints that may need to be worked around so that walking is possible (e.g. buying walking canes for safety). How could we ensure that walking is indeed a safe and effective activity for older people that it promises to be? Here are some walking tips for seniors:
- Warm up and stretch before walking. Stretching reduces joint stiffness and muscle aches. It makes walking easier for people age 65 and above, as this study shows.
- Wear proper shoes/footgear. Walking is an inexpensive exercise, but don’t skimp on buying the right shoes. When choosing a product, consider stability and comfort over style. Try on new shoes during late afternoons or early evenings to get the perfect fit.
- Note for redness, swelling, blisters on your feet. Those with diabetics should be especially careful, since any injury can worsen and lead to amputation and other complications.
- Do not walk in cold weather. Cold conditions will make your feet numb and you won’t detect an injury in its early stages. Opt to walk indoors during chilly conditions.
- Stay hydrated especially when walking outdoors during hot days.
- Stop walking as soon as you experience dizziness, breathing problems, or chest pain. Seek medical attention immediately.
Seniors need to get clearance from their doctors before starting a walking program. Caregivers should walk with them or arrange for them to join community walks. A walking booster program can build upon early gains. Many old people revert to their sedentary ways after a walking intervention. Having a walking booster program that consists of giving reading materials, pedometers, and motivational follow-up calls, should be considered so that walking becomes a habit rather than a one-shot deal. Walking is an excellent exercise option for older people to maintain fitness and physical function. No wonder walking is considered a top sports activity for seniors.