You know that exercise is good for you. But many people, especially seniors, feel that it might be too late to start an exercise program or that they have to join a gym or run a 5K in order to gain the most health benefits.
Not true. In fact, one study that examined long-term studies of runners and walkers found that the heart health benefits were about the same regardless if participants ran or walked. Both exercises led to similar reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even coronary heart disease. The researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that if you cover the same distance, the heart health benefits were roughly the same regardless of activity.
And it’s not just your heart that walking can benefit. Walking is proven to help lower blood sugar, contribute to weight loss, maintain bone mass and mental ability, improve mood, sleep, strength, and quality of life, too. Walking can also help you maintain your independence over the long run because it helps build your strength and stamina.
The best news? Anyone—including seniors—can benefit from walking, especially people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure. Also, it’s less taxing on the body than many other exercises.
Plus, it’s social. You can walk with friends and family and chat while you burn calories and build muscle. And it’s free. No gym membership required. What’s not to love?
How to start
If you’ve been inactive for a while, it’s best to start walking for 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up as tolerated to a goal of 150 minutes a week. Even if you don’t reach that goal, you’re still getting health benefits if you’re walking at all, so say the experts.
But once you’re on your way to tolerating about 30 minutes a day, realize that three 10-minute walks can be as beneficial as one 30-minute walk and might be a fun way to break up your day.
Walk anywhere that is safe for you, but when weather is a factor, walking on a treadmill or at the local mall are options. Walking in place at home is another possibility and can be just as beneficial as walking outside.
If you need assistance while walking, a private duty home care professional can help you safely navigate this new activity. They can stay with you while walking outside, take you to an indoor location, and be a great walking partner to keep you motivated.
No matter how far or near you go, you’ll be walking your way to improved health.
Michael Ferraina is a Division Director and dementia education trainer at BAYADA Home Health Care with offices in New Mexico, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado. With more than 10 years of private duty home care experience, his role is to ensure that his offices provide exceptional clinical care and efficient operations that meet or exceed state and federal standards.