As they age, many people tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
This occurs due to a number of reasons, such as various health problems or worries about falling. Many seniors think that exercising simply isn’t for them. However, having an active lifestyle once you grow older is of crucial importance to your health.
Fortunately, there’s a simple and sweat-free exercise most elders can benefit from – walking. Not only can walking improve the overall well-being of an older person, but it can also help them live independently for longer.
A hundred years ago, the life expectancy of children born in the US stood at around 55 years. Over the century, this number has increased significantly and now stands at 80 years.
For some, these additional years will be independent, active, and healthy. For others, however, the extra years will bring only the loss of their independence as they begin to rely on others.
When it comes to elders, independence is defined as the capability to perform basic activities without needing the help of other people. Some of these include:
- Getting in and out of bed
- Bathing or showering
- Using a toilet
Out of these basic activities, walking is undoubtedly one that can be done to improve health and maintain one’s ability to stay independent.
Elders with an active lifestyle are far more likely to walk without the help of others. This, in turn, allows them to perform other basic activities, unlike sedentary seniors.
As we already mentioned, the best way to prevent the loss of mobility and dependency through exercise is by walking regularly. It’s a nonstrenuous activity and as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
Improved Social Life
Meeting new people isn’t so easy when you get older. Once you are over 50, there just aren’t as many options for making friends.
That’s precisely where walking comes in. It provides a simple but efficient way to improve your social life. By joining a walking club in the community, or starting one on your own, you’ll be able to meet people you’d never be able to meet otherwise.
Once you’re with your walking friends, you’ll never feel like you’re walking too much. Moreover, you’ll want to walk every day only to spend time with them.
Another benefit worth mentioning here is the low participation cost. Once you’ve invested in a pair of sturdy walking shoes, you’ll be able to walk anywhere you want – for free! When it’s too cold or too hot, you and your group can simply head to a shopping mall.
As expected, seniors who walk on a regular basis can also enjoy a number of physical benefits. Here are the most important ones:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Stronger joints, muscles, and bones
- Improved immune system
- Lower blood sugar
- Weight loss
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced pain from arthritis
- Reduced risk of cancer
All of these benefits combined reduce the risk of death. People who walk regularly in their 50s and 60s are at a lower risk of death over an 8-year period than older people with sedentary lifestyles.
Besides being good for your physical health, walking can also boost your mood and reduce the risk of a slow cognitive decline. Moreover, seniors who take regular walks are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
A study conducted by the University of Virginia Health System has shown that older men who walk every day are 50% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Besides promoting mental sharpness, everyday walks also foster social connections (as mentioned in the section “Improved Social Life”). This is of enormous importance for the mental well-being of seniors – your brain needs socialization to stay young and vibrant.
Getting Started with Walking
Young people pick whichever exercise routines they like, but things are a bit different with seniors.
It’s very important that you talk to your doctor first. Walking may be a low-impact exercise, but can result in exacerbations of conditions in some cases. If you’re suffering from asthma, arthritis, heart disease, or any other health condition, make sure to consult your physician first.
Moreover, keep in mind that the key is in starting small.
Avoid jumping directly into strenuous exercise. Ease into your walking program by walking short, paced distances. A bit of stretching will prepare you and your ligaments, muscles, and joints for strolling. Make sure to bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated.
Finally, select a secure area. Thieves often prey on elders, so choose routes that are in public, well-lit, and somewhat busy. Walking alongside friends or family is even better in this regard.
Regular walks will help you lead a healthier, happier life well into old age. It’s a low-impact exercise that can be done virtually anywhere, and one that will help you stay independent, socially active, and healthy for years to come. Websites such as Outdoor Scott are great for finding interesting walking trails.