Rates of obesity and heart disease have dramatically increased in the last few decades. In fact, the CDC has reported that heart disease now accounts for 25% of deaths in the United States.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent and reverse the risk of heart disease and other terminal illnesses. In addition to having a balanced, low-cholesterol diet, regular exercise is the key to living a long and healthy life.
But hitting the gym or going for rigorous runs every day isn’t realistic for certain segments of the population – especially seniors. So what’s the best way for seniors to get in their daily exercise? It’s as simple as walking.
Is walking a good exercise? Absolutely. A daily walk is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Why is walking especially good for seniors? Keep reading to learn more.
Is Walking a Good Exercise?
Some people are under the impression that walking isn’t as beneficial as running or breaking a sweat in the gym. But studies have proven time and again that walking is one of the best exercises there is.
The Harvard Health journal has found that walking regularly can improve heart health by drastically lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
And that’s not all. Numerous studies across the board have concluded that regular walking is the best exercise for seniors, not only because it’s achievable and realistic compared to some other forms of exercise.
The most important thing for overall health is to get moving. But for some seniors, exercise is difficult to do arthritis, joint and back pain, COPD or other ailments.
In this case, walking is a great option because it is a low impact exercise that can feasibly be performed over longer periods of time.
You don’t have to run a marathon or throw your back out lifting weights to reap the benefits of exercise. Even a short walk every day has a huge positive impact on overall health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
Physical Benefits of Walking
As mentioned earlier, walking regularly has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of heart disease. Because it increases blood flow to the brain, over extended periods of time it can significantly improve cardiac health.
Going for a brisk walk once a day can also improve symptoms caused by kidney disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Walking at any speed reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis as it improves the strength and durability of muscles and bones. It also boosts the immune system and blood circulation.
Because walking is a lower impact exercise, it won’t cause the lungs to overexert themselves. In cases of COPD and other lung-related problems, walking even short distances daily can reduce the chances of hospitalization.
Not only does regular walking help with reducing the risk of potentially fatal diseases, but it also helps to control and manage weight.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart failure, and walking can help with weight loss while at the same time improve heart health.
Mental Benefits of Walking
If the physical benefits aren’t enough to sell you, walking has numerous mental benefits as well. Psychologists have found that walking, especially in nature, can improve depression and anxiety.
There’s something about walking in nature that stops the brain from focusing on negative thoughts. Worry goes out the window as soon as you start moving around and breathing fresh air.
And this alleviation of depression and anxiety leads to a better overall mood and can significantly improve self-image. And depression, anxiety, and mood aren’t the only things impacted.
Studies have found that frequent walking is also linked to improved memory. The increased blood flow to the brain can prevent and slow down the deterioration of the brain’s tissue in older age, which can improve cognitive ability.
This improvement in cognitive ability can even prevent and slow down the symptoms of dementia. Studies have found that sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease who took four 30-minute walks a week experienced improved memory.
A Little Goes a Long Way
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of highly intense exercise weekly for healthy adults to achieve optimum health.
While this might seem like a lot, studies have found that even a fraction of that amount can have a huge positive impact. Experts agree that a little exercise is better than none at all.
Inactivity is the silent killer. Getting up and going for a light walk for even just fifteen minutes a day is an attainable, enjoyable activity that will only have a positive impact. There is no downside, whatsoever.
As we age, all sorts of things happen to our body to limit the type of activity we can safely partake in. But there are very few excuses that should keep seniors from getting out for a daily walk.
Canes, walkers and having a companion come along with you for company and safety are all within the realm of possibility. Sitting still is more dangerous than any risks related to getting moving.
For optimum health, the recommended number of steps per day is 10,000. But there’s no rush to get there. Start small at 1,000 per day and add more as you get more comfortable.
Even if you never hit 10,000 steps per day or 150 minutes per week, any progress you make toward that goal will do you good in the long run.
The Bottom Line
It’s never too late to add exercise into your daily routine. If joint or back pain is stopping you, remember that going for a daily walk will only help to reduce those pains that are holding you back.
Walking regularly won’t only improve your mental health, reduce pain and lower the risk of chronic disease, it can be the number one secret to living a longer, healthier life.
Because walking is low impact, easy, free and does not require rigorous training of any kind, it is considered to be the best exercise for aging adults and seniors.
So, is walking a good exercise? The answer is an emphatic yes. Check out our services that help seniors live a happy, fulfilling life.