Aging leads to many changes in our physical and mental wellness, but there are numerous ways to improve or maintain our current health. Whether it be due to a change in our physical abilities or a decreased desire to stay active, we can become more sedentary later in life. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, type two diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. This, coupled with the normal declines we experience as we age regarding our metabolism and bone, muscle and joint health, make it all the more important to stay active.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to combat the effects of aging and maintain good health, such as participating in regular exercise. Many people believe the myth that intense workouts are better for you and more effective, and because of this, they overlook a simple yet powerful form of exercise: walking.
Walking offers vast physical and mental benefits to people of all ages, and can be especially beneficial to seniors. Always be sure to speak to a medical professional before starting any new exercise routine, however.
Walking Benefits You Physically
Compared to high-impact exercises like running, jump roping, high-intensity interval training and more, walking is an achievable, comfortable way that older adults can get moving. In terms of the physical benefits of walking for seniors, this exercise can support healthy aging in a variety of ways.
- Better cardiovascular health. Walking helps lower your blood pressure, strengthens your heart and facilitates the circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. As we walk, your lymphatic system’s circulation is also enhanced, which is important as it helps support immunity.
- Improved joint health and flexibility. Walking is a low-impact exercise, which puts less stress on your joints and the rest of your body. Walking helps keep your joints flexible, preventing pain and stiffness.
- Stronger bones and muscles. As we age, it’s normal for our bones and muscles to weaken. Walking daily can strengthen your entire musculoskeletal system.
- Improved coordination and fall risk reduction. Walking improves foot and ankle strength which, in turn, helps stabilize your hips, back and neck. This can help reduce the risk of falls, which in some cases are fatal to older adults.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Walking can boost your metabolism and burns calories, which enables you to keep a healthy weight and prevent obesity.
- Lower the risk of chronic illness and health issues. Walking regularly can decrease the risk of health issues and illnesses associated with being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and premature death.
Walking Benefits You Mentally
When it comes to walking and mental health, this form of exercise can also have some significant, positive impacts.
- Enhanced mood and stress reduction. Walking can help lower cortisol and release endorphins. This, in turn, mitigates feelings of stress, anxiety and depression and can improve your mood and sense of well-being.
- Better sleep. Because this is a low-impact activity that encourages blood flow and reduces stress, walking regularly can also improve the quality of your sleep.
- Cognitive decline prevention. Because walking increases blood flow to the brain, walking can enhance different aspects of cognition, such as concentration, memory and attention.
- A better social life. Walking with others can help combat loneliness. Get a group of people together or join a local walking group, see if your friends or family want to join you for a stroll, or chat on the phone with your loved ones while you walk, and you’ll quickly reap the benefits of quality time and physical activity.
Walking in nature can be especially beneficial for your mental health by calming your nervous system – in fact, one study found nature walks to have a significant positive impact on both depression and anxiety. Walk on nature trails or in local parks to get some movement in the great outdoors.
How You Can Incorporate More Walking Into Your Daily Life
Older adults should aim to sit less and move more. It’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of brisk walking per week, which averages out to about 30 minutes per day, five days a week.
If you find that you’re struggling to get that much walking in, there are certain ways you can sneak more walking into your daily routine. Think of ways you can combine walking with other activities or habits. For example, if you enjoy watching television, consider doing so while you walk on the treadmill. Instead of driving to run errands, walk if the places you need to go are nearby. If you must drive, park as far as you can in the parking lot from the entrance to get more steps in. On busy days, take short walk breaks between your tasks to get that extra movement.
Adventure awaits you right outside your front door, too. If you don’t have the time or desire to drive to a walking destination, go on a walk in your neighborhood. Dogs also love spending time outside, so consider taking your four-legged friend along for the journey.
Get Moving at Oak Trace
If you live in a senior living community, see if they have walking groups, exercise classes or a walkable neighborhood to make it easy to stay active. At Oak Trace we offer a range of services and amenities to help you stay active – and have fun while doing it! You can meander along our walking paths or get in some extra activity in our aerobics studio and fitness center.
Our upscale community, nestled in Downers Grove, Illinois, is designed to help you thrive. See what life at Oak Trace could look like for you by contacting us today.