Benefits of Walking for Seniors
- On May 23, 2016
Staying healthy and active in your senior years could simply mean taking the occasional stroll. Historically, it has been widely accepted that walking is good for burning off a few calories and keeping fit. However, several studies now show that the benefits of walking go much further, including improving mental health and warding off common health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. According to Dr. Bob Sallis, spokesperson for the public health campaign Everybody Walk! “Walking is the single best exercise we can recommend on a large scale.” He 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:
- Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar Levels—A short walk after dinner at a moderate pace burns sugar in the blood stream that can help control post-meal blood sugar spikes and even lower 24-hour blood glucose levels. Walking also strengthens muscles so that blood sugar can be metabolized more efficiently.
- Cardiovascular Benefits—Long-term studies show that like running, walking helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Back Pain Relief—Walking strengthens abdominal and back muscles, which may help reduce back pain symptoms.
- Mental Health Benefits — Walking releases endorphins into the bloodstream that naturally relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. According to Dr. Sallis, this method of stress management may work as effectively as some prescription medications.
How to Get the Most Benefits From Walking:
It is important for seniors to check with their health care provider before starting any exercise regimen, including walking. It is also important to take precautions to prevent injury and to get the maximum benefits from walking. The following advice can help seniors take full advantage of the health benefits associated with walking and avoid injury.
- Stretch. Stretching before and after any exercise regimen 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 also helps prevent the build up of lactic acid.
- Wear the appropriate shoes and apparel. Walking shoes should have plenty of cushion in the soles to absorb shock and provide good arch support. This is particularly important for seniors, who may have brittle bones.
- Limit walking on hard surfaces. The feet lose some of their natural padding and bones begin to lose density with age, making them less able to absorb shock. Constant impact on hard surfaces can lead to pain and discomfort in the ankles and knees. If possible, try enjoying a walk on a nature trail or on a track at a local fitness center. These surfaces are typically more forgiving to joints.
- 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 regular part of your life in order to maintain your healthy and active lifestyle!
At Gable Pines, residents can lead an active lifestyle and enjoy a stroll across our scenic campus on our walking path that stretches throughout the community. When the weather is not favorable for an outdoor stroll, the residents can walk indoors through the lovely halls and commons areas of Gable Pines. Staying social is another important aspect of aging in a healthy way, and walking indoors throughout our community presents a wonderful opportunity to greet and develop relationships with the other residents of the community.
For more information concerning our healthcare programs and the services offered at Gable Pines, please contact us today.