Staying healthy and active in your senior years could simply mean taking the occasional stroll. Everyone knows that taking a walk is an easy and enjoyable way to stay trim and get a mild cardiovascular workout, however, several studies now show that the benefits of walking go much further. Walking has been proven to provide an array of health advantages including improving mental health and warding off common health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
“Walking is the single best exercise we can recommend on a large scale,” said Dr. Bob Sallis, spokesperson for the public health campaign, Everybody Walk! Dr. Sallis believes that more doctors should prescribe walking for their patients just like they would a medication. In addition to promoting general fitness and helping control weight, walking offers numerous additional health benefits, including:
• Blood Sugar Regulation—A short walk after dinner at a moderate pace can help control post-meal blood sugar spikes and even lower 24-hour blood glucose levels by burning sugar in the bloodstream. Walking also strengthens muscles which helps your body metabolize blood sugar more efficiently. This is particularly helpful for seniors because seniors are often at a higher risk for diabetes.
- Heart Healthy—Long-term studies show that like running, walking helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving your overall cardiovascular system.
- Easing Back Pain—Walking strengthens abdominal and back muscles, which can help reduce back pain symptoms.
- Keep Calm, Walk On — Walking releases endorphins in the body that naturally relieve feelings of anxiety and stress, major symptoms of depression. According to Dr. Sallis, this method of stress management may work as effectively as some prescription medications.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Walking:
Like any exercise regimen, seniors should check with their physician before walking long distances. It is important to take precautions to prevent injury and to get the maximum benefits from walking. The following advice can help seniors embarking on a walking fitness regimen avoid injury.
- Stretch. As most of us know, stretching before and after any exercise is one of the most basic and effective methods of injury prevention. Stretching increases blood flow to the extremities and helps prevent lactic acid from building up in the muscles. Lactic acid is the chemical byproduct that makes muscles feel stiff and sore after exercise.Eating bananas prior to or immediately after strenuous exercise helps avoid the build up of lactic acid.
- Wear appropriate shoes and clothing. Walking or tennis shoes should have sufficient cushion in the soles to absorb shock and provide good arch support. This is particularly important for seniors, who may have brittle bones.
- Avoid constant walking on hard surfaces. Our feet lose some of their natural padding and bones begin to lose density with age, which means they are less able to absorb shock. Repeated impact on hard surfaces can lead to pain and discomfort in joints. Nature trails or tracks are typically more forgiving to our joints, so try to find one of these nearby.
- Avoid walking outdoors in extremely cold weather. The cold numbs the extremities, making it harder to detect injuries.
- Frequently check for injuries or circulation issues, particularly if you have diabetes. Even minor injuries can lead to serious infections in individuals with diabetes.
Make walking a daily exercise and maintain your healthy and active lifestyle!
At The Delaney at Parkway Lakes, a senior living community located in the greater Katy area, residents can lead an active lifestyle and enjoy a stroll at one of the nearby parks or recreational areas. When the weather is not ideal for an outdoor exploration, residents can walk indoors through the halls and common areas of The Delaney. Staying social is another important aspect of healthy aging, and walking indoors throughout our community is a wonderful way to meet others and develop relationships with the residents of the community.