Fitness Benefits Of Walking For Older Adults
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Are there really fitness benefits of walking for older adults?

Absolutely! Take into account the obesity issue in America and the complications that result from it. Any activity is better than none and walking is an excellent source of activity.

Obesity is a serious problem in the United States today. In fact, the CDC indicates that over 1/3 of the American population is obese, resulting in over $150 billion dollars spent on complications of obesity in 2008. Complications from obesity include:

  • heart disease,
  • diabetes, type II,
  • high blood pressure,
  • joint problems related to weight, and
  • gallbladder problems.

These are just a few of the chronic diseases that people are dealing with related to obesity. Not to mention the emotional toll that obesity can cause such as depression, lack of energy, and lack of self-confidence.

As we age, battling obesity does not get any easier. Factors associated with the natural aging process seem to want to work against efforts to lose weight and stay healthy, such as decreases in lean muscle mass, reduced metabolism, reduction in certain hormones, and possibly pain from arthritis. Exercise, in conjunction with good nutrition, is a key component to losing weight, creating a healthy lifestyle, a nd actually slowing down some of the natural aging processes to help us stay healthier longer.

Is walking a good choice of exercise for older adults?

Walking is a great choice for cardiovascular exercise for older adults. Have you ever heard the term, "A body in motion tends to stay in motion"? Well, that's a true statement. If you want to stay active, you need to get moving. Not only does walking help get the heart pumping, it also helps build muscles which help support bones, it keep the metabolism revving, it gives you energy, and it helps improve your mood.

What is a good plan for a walking program?

A good plan would be to take a walk every day or at least 5 times per week. At the bare minimum, 3 days per week would work. Start by walking slowly as a warm up for about 10 minutes then gradually pick up your pace. Ideally, you would like to aim to increase your heart rate for about 20 minutesby walking briskly (moderate intensity exercise) then gradually slow your pace down as a cool down period for 10 more minutes. A good rule of thumb to determine if you are exercising moderately would be that you are able to talk, but not sing a song. If you are breathing so hard that you cannot even talk, you are working a more extreme intensity. Moderate intensity exercise will work just fine as long as it is done on a consistent basis.

How do you stay interested in walking as exercise?

Staying interested in any exercise routine is quite a challenge. Walking is one of the easist activites to stay interested in. How about trying:

  • varying your route - find a couple of various parks nearby so that you can change up where you walk every day. Sometimes walking in the local mall is also a good idea and it's climate controlled so then weather won't become an issue as to if you can get your exercise done or not.
  • find a walking buddy or group - many local towns have walking clubs that might be fun to join, but also just finding a good friend to walk with would be sufficient. Its great to have someone to chat with along the trail, but also someone who can hold you accountable for exercising, encourage you when you don't feel like going, and who is there if something happens while your out.
  • invest in a treadmill - treadmills are an excellent way to walk in the convenience of your own home. No excuses when your walking trail is sitting in the living room! Find some of your favorite music on the radio and hum away while you walk on your treadmill. Having a treadmill doesn't mean you have to walk inside, but it definately help give you options when the weather is bad, too cold, too hot, or there isn't anywhere near that is nice or safe to walk outside.

Another good idea to help stay interested in an exercise program in general would be to mix it up. Try including various cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming, tennis, or other fun sports that you enjoy - and YES, playing with the kids, grandkids, or dog counts. It is also a great idea to include strength/weight training into your routine.

In summary, walking is a great source of exercise and it is an excellent choice for any adult, including older adults. Just make sure that when you walk you make it effective by walking at a moderate intensity level and keep your exercise interesting so you don't get bored. Remember that any exercise is better than NO exercise and the best exercise program is the one you will stick with.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions. I'd love to chat.



Street Talk

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