5 Major Benefits of Walking: The Perfect Exercise for Seniors

5 Major Benefits of Walking: The Perfect Exercise for Seniors

“Today, gerontologists and other senior health experts agree that walking might just be the perfect exercise for older adults,” says Frank Frustillo, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Saunders House, located in Wynnewood, PA.

Unlike many other forms of exercise that entail buying special equipment or making regular trips to the health club or gym, walking can be done anywhere, at any time – at your convenience and with little or no expense. And all you need to get started is a comfortable pair of walking shoes that fit well and give you good support and balance.

The benefits of regular walking are many and some are even a bit surprising. Senior exercise proponents at the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health and the Centers for Disease Control agree that senior adults who walk just three to five times per week for 30 minutes at a time can achieve measurable improvements in their overall health and well-being.

Walking’s Multiple – and Somewhat Unexpected – Benefits! 

While walking has long been thought to be a healthy activity for seniors, its actual benefits are now being brought to light by scientific evidence.In summarizing walking’s substantial value,the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, states “walking is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

More specifically, research studies confirm that regular walking offers the following health benefits:

1. Boosting Immune Function – One study of more than 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes per day, five days per week, experienced 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. Walkers also showed milder symptoms and shorter durations if they did get sick. 

A few theories exist to link exercise with the immune system. One theory is that as heart rate increases, blood circulates faster, sending disease-fighting antibodies and white blood cells on a high-speed chase to detect infections sooner. Another theory suggests that walking reduces stress hormones, which therefore reduces stress-induced problems such as heart disease and a higher risk of becoming ill.

2. Improving Memory – Walking can help seniors avoid age-related memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. A University of California study showed that in 6,000 women age 65 and older, those who walked more experienced lower age-related memory decline. Participants who walked 2.5 miles each day had a 17% decline in memory, compared to a 25% decline in those who barely walked at all. 

Another study from the University of Virginia found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile a day were half as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less. 

3. Easing Joint Pain –According to the Arthritis Foundation, our joints get their nutrients from fluid that circulates as we move. The impact of movement compresses and lubricates the joint cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. Walking also protects the joints by strengthening the muscles that support them. Studies show that walking reduces arthritis-related pain in the knees and hips, and covering five to six miles a week can prevent arthritis from developing in the first place. 

4. Controlling Weight Gain – While this particular benefit may not be as surprising, the specific ways in which walking helps you control weight gain are quite unique. Harvard researchers studying obesity-promoting genes found that for people who walked briskly each day, the effects of such genes were cut in half. Other research found that regular walking helps control weight gain by curbing cravings for chocolate and other sugary snacks.

5. Lowering the  Risk for Glaucoma – According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, a regular exercise regimen, such as walking three or more times each week, can successfully reduce pressure in the eye. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) damages the optic nerve, but regular exercise can have an IOP-lowering effect. This benefit only continues, though, as you keep exercising. 

“Walking in itself can beenjoyable and invigorating,” Frank adds, “but if you need a little help in sticking with it, you can try the following tips: walk with friends or family member to make it a social event. Listen to favorite music or talk to a friend on the phone. Set goals for yourself that you can try to achieve or surpass. Lastly, vary your route often for a change of scenery.”

At Saunders House, we embrace the value of exercise and wellness and incorporate these activities into our various types of care including rehabilitation, restoration and traditional nursing care. We hope you’ll take these walking tips to heart and adopt a healthy approach to your life, too!

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on healthy walking, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section. 

We invite you to learn more about senior health and senior care topics by visiting the informative articles and tips on our website.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue. 

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at (610) 658-5100 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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