Do you dread hearing the words “workout?” For many of us, the idea of working out and getting healthy means hurting muscles, sweating a lot and hours spent in the gym. But as it turns out, one of the best workouts you can get requires no special equipment nor excessive sweating – and you can start doing it today.
What are we talking about? Walking, of course.
“Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise,” says Wayne Vinson, Sales Leader at The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. “Not only does it work all parts of your body and help you become stronger, leaner and faster, but it also is the perfect exercise for individuals who don’t do a lot of exercise, have health or joint issues or are older.”
In the article “Why Walking Is the Most Underrated Form of Exercise” John Ford, certified exercise physiologist, says, “Walking is a really good form of exercise and can help you reach your fitness and weight-loss goals. In fact, walking is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Walking is a lower impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time.”
Wayne agrees. “Living well and staying engaged in mind, body and spirit is essential to a healthy, happy retirement,” he states. “That’s why the Vitality Program at The Village at Gainesville focuses on overall wellness and senior health. We provide endless opportunities for you to do that. We have water aerobics, a fitness center perfect for walking or running, group classes like yoga and tai chi, personal trainers and outdoor tennis and pickleball courts.”
And there is no shortage of scientific research to back up the effectiveness of adding walking to your fitness routine.
The Health Benefits of Walking
- Better circulation.
Walking is great for your heart – it helps stave off heart disease, improves heart rate, strengthens your heart and lowers blood pressure. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk one to two miles a day can potentially lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Other benefits include a reduced risk of stroke, better circulation and better blood sugar levels.
- Stronger muscles.
Walking is a great workout for your legs and abdominal muscles. Pump your arms as you walk, and your arm muscles will get a workout, too.
- Stronger bones.
Walking also can help stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, and also helps reduce your risk of injuries like fractures and breaks.
- A longer life.
Research finds that those who exercise regularly have a higher life expectancy than their non-walking counterparts – anywhere from 35 to 45 percent.
- Weight loss.
Any sort of movement can burn calories. For example, a brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. This can lead to weight loss and the ability to maintain a healthy weight.
- A better mood.
Ever notice how good you feel after a brisk walk? That’s because walking releases serotonin – your body’s “happy” hormone. This results in a clearer mind, lowered stress and – you guessed it – a better mood.
- Better sleep.
Staying physically active helps us burn energy, which results in better and deeper sleep at night. So if you’re suffering insomnia, a brisk walk during the afternoon can help you get your ZZZs on.
- A lower risk of cognitive decline.
Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Walking Tips for Seniors
Are you a senior searching for new ways to exercise this spring? Whether you’ve been exercising for years or are looking for ways to get off the couch, here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic to help you build a walking regimen that will keep you fit, healthy and aging well. As always, if you’re beginning a new fitness regime, consult with your doctor first. It’s better to start slow and simple than going too fast and potentially injuring yourself.
Before you start out, consider your walking technique. While a leisurely stroll is definitely enjoyable and relaxing, a fitness walk requires purposeful movements and good posture. Here is what is considered “good form” for a fitness walk:
- Your head is up and you’re looking forward (not at the ground).
- Your shoulders, neck and back are straight while still being relaxed (don’t be stiff).
- Your arms are swinging freely, and you’re bending your elbows slightly. If you’d like, feel free to pump your arms to add a little extra movement and calorie burn.
- Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened, helping control your balance as well as your posture.
- Your back is straight, not bowed forward or arched backwards.
- You have a smooth walking gait that rolls your foot from heel to toe – no dragging your feet across the ground.
While walking doesn’t require any specialized equipment or workout clothes, you still want to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. This will help you stay comfortable and will also help you reduce the risk of injury. You’ll also want to make sure you have a routine that you follow on every walk. Here are some suggestions as to how to make the most from your walking routine:
- Make sure you’re wearing the proper gear. Select shoes that have a firm heel, flexible soles and proper arch support. This will help absorb shock and cushion your feet. Be sure to wear clothes that are comfortable and potentially layerable (depending on your climate)
- Choose a course that’s appropriate for your ability and level. If you’re walking outside, make sure your path is smooth and free of issues that could cause you to trip or otherwise injure yourself. You may want to consider walking on an indoor track or in a shopping mall that offers times for open walks.
- Make sure you spend five to ten minutes warming up before your walk, and five to ten minutes at the end to cool down.
- After walking, be sure you gently stretch to help avoid cramps and sore muscles.
It’s recommended that senior adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. This translates to approximately 30 minutes a day, five days a week – the perfect length for a brisk walk.
Walking is a great way to start exercising, or to add to your routine if you need more activity in your day. Remember that it’s okay to start slowly. Every step you take is a step in the right direction towards better health.
A Legacy of Living Well
If you want the very best for your parent or loved one, consider The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. Contact us online or call us at 352-548-3507 to learn more about our variety of residential options.