For seniors, walking offers plenty of benefits. It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t require fancy equipment. It can be done indoors or outdoors, alone or with friends, and most of us have been doing it since we were toddlers. But the biggest benefit of walking is that it can fill the important role of exercise in a senior’s life.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that people over age 65 get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least five days a week. So brisk walking, which requires about 100 steps a minute, is just what the doctor ordered! Walking is beneficial for people of all ages, but the following list of the benefits of walking are especially valuable for seniors.
Why Walking is Healthy for Seniors
Good for the BrainOlder people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience age-related memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Research suggests that even a 10-minute walk may be good for the brain, because it can help the brain function as if it were younger and reduce natural age-related shrinking of the part of the brain responsible for memory.
The brain also regulates mood, and walking can help with that too, because it causes the body to release endorphins, chemicals that make people feel happy.
Good for the HeartHeart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for Americans. But a brisk walking program for seniors can lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Good for Bones and MusclesYou might assume that walking would have a negative impact on joint health, but by and large, that’s not the case. Not only is walking a low-impact exercise that isn’t likely to result in injury, but it can actually prevent some cases of arthritis and reduce existing arthritis pain. That’s because walking lubricates joints and strengthens muscles. Walking also strengthens bones, so it has the potential to prevent osteoporosis or lessen the disease’s effects. Seniors who walk regularly are also less likely to develop a physical disability of any kind than those who don’t.
Good for the Immune SystemOur immune systems naturally weaken as we get older, making us more susceptible to infectious diseases. One of the benefits of walking is that it can counteract some of that by giving aging immune systems a much-needed boost.
Good for the WaistlineLosing weight is notoriously difficult. Part of the reason is that most exercise plans are hard to stick with for very long. That’s what makes walking a great exercise for weight loss. A walking program for seniors may not result in fast changes, but because it’s easier to stick with than most forms of exercise, the slow-but-steady calorie burn it provides is more likely to result in lasting weight loss than many other exercise plans. That weight loss is important because it can lower an elderly person’s risk of serious obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Another study found that even light activity may increase your chances of living longer. So what are you waiting for? Take a walk!