One of the best ways to trim your waistline, improve your cardiovascular health, alleviate stress and anxiety, and reduce your risk for cancer and multiple chronic diseases is to simply put one foot in front of the other. It really is as simple as walking for older adults. And according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”
So, stop shaming yourself when a jogger passes you by. It’s okay that you’re walking. There are actually many benefits of walking for older adults. In fact, walking offers just as many, if not more, health benefits than its quicker exercise counterpart, running. There are even some benefits that may surprise you. Here’s a list of reasons why you should walk, not run!
Alleviate Joint Pain
We know when you have aching or stiff joints, the last thing you want to do is move, let alone exercise. But, contrary to what you think, being physical and walking for older adults can actually help relieve some of your joint pain. This is because walking increases blood flow, and not just to your heart.
Because walking engages more muscles, it increases the blood flow to your joints and other surrounding tissues, which loosens them up as well as strengthens them. A 2019 study found that walking just 10 minutes a day, or about an hour a week can stave off disability in older adults with arthritis pain or aching or stiffness in a knee, hip, ankle, or foot. So I think it’s time to break out the walking shoes.
Help Stimulate Your Digestive System
We’ve always heard that walking after eating is good for us, but do you know why? A significant health benefit of walking is that it can help improve and stimulate our digestive system. Regular bowels are vital for older adults. Walking utilizes core and abdominal muscles, encouraging movement in our gastrointestinal system. This helps food start to move from the stomach into the small intestines quicker.
Research is also showing that walking’s digestive benefits may help prevent diseases like peptic ulcers, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticular disease, constipation, and colorectal cancer.
Tame Your Sweet Tooth
The next time you’re craving a chocolate bar or another sweet treat, you may want to get up and take a walk around the block. This may be one of the most unique benefits of walking for older adults. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb chocolate cravings. It also showed to reduce the amount of chocolate eaten during stressful situations. In this circumstance, walking seems like a win-win. You’re not only burning calories, but you’re preventing yourself from eating a bunch of wasted sugary calories.
Add Years to Your Life
Want to live longer? Lace-up your sneakers and hit the pavement. Best of all, it doesn’t take much. Just 10 to 59 minutes of brisk walking a week can possibly lower your risk of death by 18 percent, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Bump those walking minutes up to 150 in at least 10-minutes spurts, and you could help to lower your death risk by 31 percent. Evidence shows that your pace plays a role, and the faster you walk may correlate with your increased risk drop.
Boost Your Brainpower
When you walk, you not only give your body a workout but also your brain. Brisk walking three times a week can help ward off memory loss and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In a study, people who walked one hour three times a week demonstrated better decision-making than those who attended educational seminars.
Walking and physical activity help to improve blood flow in your brain, which helps to prevent memory loss and brain damage. In addition, walking has been found to help inspire creative thinking and overall creativity. So if you want to calm your thoughts and improve your focus, take a stroll and unwind.
Once you begin walking, it won’t take long to notice results. You don’t have to push yourself straight out the gate, either. Walking is a low-impact activity, so it is one of the best forms of exercise almost anyone can do. Start small. Walk for 10 minutes here and there. Then slowly increase your time. And, if possible, increase your pace.
Walking for older adults is a great gateway exercise to get your muscles moving, and your heart elevated. Do your body and yourself a favor and lace up your tennis shoes. When there are so many benefits of walking for older adults, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t start walking.