Going for more walks sounds like a simple enough goal, but it can be hard to make into a daily habit. But if seniors can manage to work more walks into their daily ritual*, it can make a huge difference in their health and wellbeing.
A commitment to take daily walks is usually easier to take on than committing to more strenuous forms of exercise. There’s less threat of hurting yourself, and it can often be downright pleasant. In case you’re not won over to the idea yet, here are twelve good reasons that seniors should take more walks.
- It’s a free and easy exercise option.
Sometimes it seems like we hear all day every day how much we should exercise more. But exercising is hard and few people actually enjoy it in the moment of doing it. One of the best ways to get over the mental hurdle that keeps so many people from exercising is to find a type of exercise you actually enjoy.
For a lot of people, walking qualifies. It can be peaceful. It gives you a chance to look at the sky, the trees, and the flowers in your neighborhood. And it’s not as strenuous and difficult as something like cardio or weight lifting.
On top of all that, going for a walk is free. You don’t need a gym membership or expensive workout videos, just decent shoes and a route in mind.
- It gets you out of the house.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the growth in aging in place is that many seniors find it increasingly difficult to get out of the house as often as they should. Spending all day at home alone isn’t healthy, but even just getting out of the house for a half-hour walk can make a difference. It gives you an excuse each day to get up, get dressed, and do something active.
- Being outside is good for you.
A number of scientific studies over time have confirmed that being outside in nature is good for us. Access to the sun provides the vitamin D we need, spending time out in natural light is good for getting better sleep, and access to nature has been shown to improve mood.
- It can prolong your life.
If you want to live a longer life, research shows that daily walks are a good way to increase your chances. Even just 25 minutes a day of walking has been linked to longer life spans. You’re retired – surely you can find 25 minutes a day to devote to walking if it means you get more years out of life?
- It helps you stay mobile longer.
Daily movement keeps your body healthier and active for longer, so that you’re more likely to maintain your ability to do basic physical tasks for years to come. To increase your chances of being able to dress yourself, walk through your own home, and get in and out of bed without help well into old age, start taking those daily walks now.
- It’s good for your joints.
Walking is gentle on your joints, while increasing the blood flow that helps keep joints healthier. The movement makes sure that oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the cartilage in your joints so they can stay healthy.
- It’s good for your muscles.
As with the joints, making sure your muscles get some action and movement in each day keeps them from deteriorating. All seniors face the loss of muscle mass with age, but exercise can help slow down the process. Walking is especially good for the muscles in your legs and abdominals, which are important to keep you mobile.
- It’s good for your bones.
Bone mass is also something that regularly deteriorates with old age, leading to bones that break more easily and a higher risk of osteoporosis. Walking can help slow down the loss of bone mass as well. Walking for at least four hours a week has been shown to decrease the risk of hip fracture by 40%.
- It’s good for your circulation.
The movement you do when walking gets your blood flowing, which improves circulation. Even better, improved circulation goes hand in hand with lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease – two common health concerns amongst seniors.
- It slows the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is another huge concern for seniors and one that we have no clear cure for, but research does point to some things seniors can do to help reduce their risk or slow the onset of symptoms. One study found that taking regular, brisk walks can help slow memory loss for those in the early stages of the disease, and another found that long walks can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- It can help with sundowners syndrome.
For seniors and their families that are already dealing with Alzheimer’s, a daily walk can be a good way to prevent or reduce the prevalence of sundowners syndrome. Since walks combine exercise with exposure to natural light, they can be good for helping seniors’ internal clocks stay in sync and make it easier for them to get to sleep at night.
- It helps prevent depression.
Senior depression is a serious problem that influences quality of life for seniors and puts them at risk of a number of health problems. Research has shown that exercise both helps prevent and reduce the effects of depression. Any type of exercise can do the trick, but for many seniors, walking will be the easiest form to bring into daily life.
If you weren’t convinced before, that’s a pretty persuasive list of reasons to reconsider your hesitation. For most seniors, taking walks each day isn’t that hard to pull off and it can make a huge difference to your health and quality of life. Figure out what time of day you enjoy best for walks and make a commitment to stick with it.
*For seniors with disabilities or mobility issues that make walking unsafe, the advice in this post simply doesn’t apply. Stick with exercises and activities your doctor recommends as safe.