According to Harvard Medical School, walking for 2.5 hours a week can reduce the risk of heart disease risk by 30 percent. But the question is, why is walking so good for our health, especially for seniors? The answer is multi-faceted with numerous benefits. Below we explain why active adults should walk daily for optimal health.
No gym membership is required! Walking is free and one of the simplest and easiest ways to get healthy because it’s easily accessible. Walking is a beginner-friendly activity and doesn’t require any special skills to begin. Simply throw on comfortable clothes, lace up your sneakers, and hit the road!
As we age, we must be mindful of the type of physical activity we engage in and its impact on our joints. Over time, our cartilage gradually wears down, causing an increase in joint pain. Inevitably, our joints become stiffer and less flexible with time, leading to discomfort and even injury if we aren’t careful. Low-impact activities like walking, yoga, and water aerobics are great options for aging individuals. Back pain is among seniors' most common injuries, and most back pain injuries are due to high-impact sports. But walking is low impact, and you can go at your own pace, reducing the risk of injury.
While we often think of exercise as beneficial to our physical health, it is equally vital to our mental wellbeing! Walking, like all forms of exercise, has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety and support cognitive function. According to Web MD, walking has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central nervous response system. This is good because the HPA axis is responsible for your stress response.
Furthermore, walking improves your sleep quality, positively impacting your overall mood. Walking also provides a quiet time to think and reflect, clearing our minds and allowing us to process our thoughts more freely.
The risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, heightens with age. While medication is usually the “quick fix”, incorporating walks into your daily routine can act as a drug-free approach to lowering blood pressure. As reported by Web MD, a Korean study shows that walking just 40 minutes a day lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Additionally, daily exercise creates a stronger heart that pumps more blood, which helps improve blood pressure. It takes about three months of regular exercise before notable changes occur. At this point, it can start positively impacting your blood pressure.
Any weight-bearing activity helps promote strong bones, which is especially important for seniors. As we age, the risk of osteoporosis increases significantly, making us more susceptible to frail, brittle bones. This consequently elevates the risk of fractures or broken bones, especially related to falls. Seniors 65 years and older are 25% more likely to fall than their younger peers. Strong bones, in conjunction with improved balance, will support fall prevention.
Obesity is one of the most significant epidemics in this country, with a significant contributing factor being a sedentary lifestyle. Get up and get moving, America! By simply walking 30 minutes a day, we can help our body burn calories, reducing the amount of excess body fat. While many think this is just a vain concern based on appearance alone, it is a threat to all our vital organs, putting us at a greater risk of other diseases and health problems. As reported by Livestrong, a 2012 study published in the journal BMJ Open showed that intense walking for two to four hours a week slashed participants' risk of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome — an obesity-related group of conditions — by 50 percent.
White blood cells are a vital part of our immune system, responsible for fighting off illnesses and infections. We can improve our circulation through exercise, prompting the number of white blood cells circulating throughout our blood. A brisk 30-minute walk each day can actively engage our immune systems and help us fight off a cold, the flu, and other viruses.
You’ve just finished a generous serving of spaghetti and meatballs, accompanied by a fresh, green salad. While setting down your fork and clearing your plate, signifying the completion of your meal, your body is just getting to work! It’s busy breaking down your meal and absorbing the nutrients. Walking helps to speed up this process and move things along more quickly. The faster this process occurs, the less likely you will experience lesser desired side effects like bloating, acid reflux, and gas. o next time you’re inclined to move from the dinner table to the couch, consider hitting the streets for an evening walk instead!
Do you feel the 3 o’clock slump sneaking up on you? Can you guess the time based on your energy levels alone? Are you thinking about grabbing a cup of coffee to get you over the hump? Consider reaching for your sneakers instead of a Starbucks! Walking helps to increase the amount of oxygen flowing through your blood, ultimately increasing your energy levels. Nix the nap and fight fatigue with an afternoon walk instead!