Health Benefits of Walking for Seniors and Tips To Get Off on the Right Foot
Getting older can include a myriad of new issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Joint pain
- Anxiety; and
You know that exercise is proven to help improve your health and well-being — but walking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of exercising.
You may be surprised to learn that walking is not only a simple way to get your body moving but it’s recommended as a daily exercise for seniors with great results in reducing many health issues.
Keep reading to learn the remarkable health benefits of walking for seniors through science and studies and how you can start making walking part of your daily routine.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Table of Contents
Why Seniors Should Walk Everyday
Walking has many benefits for seniors — for both your mind and body. Walking can improve your health and well-being. It can also help you live independently for longer.
At Senior Services of America communities, we promote living a healthy lifestyle each day. Staying active, such as going for daily walks, is a key part of maintaining physical and emotional health.
9 Health Benefits of Walking for Seniors
#1: Improve Cardiac Health
Studies have repeatedly shown walking can help improve circulation and blood pressure.
Walking is one of the best exercises for heart health. The CDC recommends walking at least 150 minutes weekly for adults 65 and older.
#2: Lower Blood Sugar
Taking a walk after meals — even just a 15-minute walk — has been shown to reduce the spike in blood sugar that some seniors can experience after eating.
This study found that walking for half an hour played a central role in preventing long-term complications in managing type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugars are at their highest from 60 to 90 minutes after eating. So, it’s best to take your walk within this time frame. This is especially important for seniors with prediabetes or another type of diabetes looking to avoid dramatic blood sugar swings.
#3: Stronger Bones, Joints, and Muscles
Walking offers benefits to your …
- Joints; and
… all at once.
When you walk, you’re working multiple muscle groups, including your:
- Lower back; and
Try pumping your arms while you walk, and you’ll see benefits to your upper body, too.
The motions of walking help strengthen your supportive muscles and bones. At the same time, walking helps keep your joints lubricated — which is crucial for seniors. This can help you stay more independent and prevent injuries like a hip fracture.
#4: Slow Cognitive Decline
Walking can help seniors remain mentally sharp with age. Studies show walking can help protect the aging brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It was found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more.
This study found that participants who were more active had a 20 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who were inactive. Another study suggests that approximately two to four hours per week of walking can improve cognitive function in healthy seniors. The same study also showed that walking stabilized cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s disease across one year.
#5: Better Mood
Along with the many long-term benefits of walking is the short-term perk of positive mental health.
Walking releases endorphins that…
- Create a sense of well-being
- Reduce your anxiety; and
- Help boost your mood
… helping you feel more positive about life.
Walking allows you time to get away from stressors and gives you time to think. And in the long term, meeting your walking goals and seeing positive results can increase your self-confidence.
#6: Reduce Aches and Pains
The same endorphins that help improve your mood can decrease the perception of pain because they bind to the same neurotransmitters that common pain medications bind to.
Also, since walking builds muscles and promotes flexibility, many seniors find it beneficial in controlling pain, such as pain from arthritis or osteoarthritis. Arthritis is often the reason for joint pain — which can make movement painful.
If you have arthritis, you may be nervous to start walking due to possible pain. However, studies have found that walking can reduce arthritis pain. Walking lubricates knee and hip joints and strengthens surrounding muscles — reducing the strain placed on the joint itself.
#7: Improved Sleep
Daily walks have been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep. This study found the relationship between daytime moving and restful sleep to be consistent and strong. It showed that the more steps people accumulated over the course of the study, the higher their self-rated sleep quality was during that time.
Researchers have also discovered that those who walk each morning are less likely to experience insomnia than those who don’t go for walks.
#8: More Social Interaction
Walking offers an easy way for seniors to meet up with others. You can join a walking group with friends, engage with neighbors while out on your daily walk, or walk with others in a senior community. Social interaction is another key to good health for older adults.
Walking with a friend or loved one has many benefits, including:
- It makes exercise more fun.
- It helps you make new friends.
- It offers accountability.
- You’ll probably walk farther and more often with a friend.
- Walking with a friend is safer.
- It can help fight loneliness for seniors.
#9: Improve Immune System Health
Walking can help protect you against day-to-day illness. Studies have shown that walking is associated with reduced disease activity and improves immune function in seniors, such as this study that studied seniors with rheumatoid arthritis.
It has been found that regular walkers get sick less frequently and for shorter periods than people who don’t exercise. They also tend to have less severe symptoms. It was found that people who walked 20 minutes a day, five days a week, took 43% fewer sick days compared to people who did not exercise.
4 Tips To Make Walking a Part of Your Daily Routine
Most seniors can do some form of exercise. But before you or your loved one begins, talk to your doctor about the level of exercise that’s best.
#1: Start Small
Although walking can offer many great benefits to seniors, it’s important not to go too hard, or too fast. Start small and slow — especially if you’ve been inactive. You can begin by just walking slowly around the block or timing yourself for a short, five to ten-minute walk.
You can use the talk test as a way to monitor exercise intensity. You know you’re walking at a good pace if it feels like you’re exercising, but you’re still able to carry on a conversation with someone. This is likely moderately intense exercise. If you are unable to talk at all, it’s probably intense exercise and needs to be lessened.
#2: Set Goals
Walking may be one of the easiest exercises to do for your health — but it still requires thought and planning to get started and make it a routine.
You need to set appropriate and realistic goals for your body and health needs. Not doing so can lead to discouragement, frustration, or even injury.
Some seniors find it helpful to follow the SMART approach to setting fitness goals.
SMART is an acronym for goals that are:
- What is your reason to begin a fitness routine? Create a clear goal based on your reasons. Include a starting point and a specific, targeted expectation.
- You need to be able to see your results. Include measurable things like how many inches you’d like to lose, a certain number of steps to work toward, or a decrease in blood pressure.
- Setting reachable goals will help set you up for success. You don’t want to become disheartened on the journey to your goal.
- Make sure your methods of exercise match your goals. For example, if you’re looking to decrease stress, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and weight, walking can help you achieve that goal.
- Set a timeframe, whether a month or even a specific date, by which you plan to have achieved the goal. This can help you implement the changes you need to achieve the goal and set milestones along the way.
At Senior Solutions of America communities, we create goals and care plans for our residents that are tailored to their specific needs. We understand the health benefits of walking for seniors — and we strive to provide you or your loved one with the best possible experience every day. Contact us today to learn more.
#3: Stay Safe
Always make sure you or your senior loved one …
- Dresses appropriately for the weather
- Wears sun protection; and
- Always stays hydrated
… as seniors can be more affected by particularly warm or cold days.
You may need to find alternative options to get a walk in — such as walking in an indoor mall, going to an indoor pool for a water walk, or investing in a treadmill.
Also, always be careful when walking outside, paying attention to traffic, curbs, or other things that may cause accidents for seniors.
#4: Select the Right Shoes
Shoes can make all the difference when it comes to walking and sticking to it. Comfortable, safe walking shoes can help reduce the risk of suffering an injury or falling. Find shoes that give comfort and stability. Comfortable sneakers with proper arch support and shock absorption work well for most people.
If your shoes are brand new, try them on and make sure they fit well and are comfortable before wearing them out. It’s also a good idea to start with shorter walks at first to break your shoes in well.
If you want advice about the best suitable footwear for your feet, there are many stores that specialize in helping find the right shoes. If you have foot problems, talk to your doctor or podiatrist about the best type of footwear for walking.
Don’t let using a cane or a walker stop you. These can improve your balance and help lighten the load on your joints to make walking easier.
Senior Services of America: Enriching the Lives of Our Residents and Encouraging Them To Reach Their Full Potential
We’ve discussed several of the health benefits of walking for seniors. Should you or a loved one ever need residential care, it’s important to consider what is offered in terms of physical exercise.
You can rest assured that at any of our Pacific Northwest senior communities, we strive to keep our residents engaged in life:
- Mentally; and
Our independent living residents participate in many wellness and exercise activities through social and recreational activities. Though they may come and go as they please, our communities offer beautiful grounds that are perfect for daily walks.
Our assisted living communities feature many common spaces, including recreation rooms and spacious outdoor areas. Along with nutritious meals, residents enjoy many activities together, including walking.
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you understand the importance of keeping them active, both mentally and physically. Senior Services of America’s memory care communities are dedicated to providing residents with a variety of effective programs to keep them healthy and engaged in life.
You can be sure that your or your loved one’s health and well-being are priorities at any senior housing community managed by Senior Services of America. Explore a community today.