The Benefits of Walking for Seniors

For a healthy heart and more, start walking

You probably know that walking is good for you, but did you know that just 15 minutes of daily walking can significantly cut your risk for obesity and heart disease? Recent research suggests that standard recommendations for exercise may be too stringent for some seniors, who can benefit from walking just 75 minutes a week — 15 minutes a day for five days each week.

Researchers found that people who exercised the recommended 150 minutes weekly saw their risk of dying during the study period decreased by 28 percent. But people who exercised for only half the recommended time were 22 percent less likely to die during the same period.

Short duration, big benefits?

The researchers felt that for seniors, current recommendations might seem too daunting. Cutting the recommended exercise time for aging individuals would emphasize the benefits of exercise even at durations below the recommended minimum, they noted.

In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, walking offers a number of other advantages.

Low impact

Walking is a great activity for seniors because it’s generally considered low-impact and doesn’t put undue stress on the bones and joints for most people. As opposed to activities that involve running or jumping, walking is much less strenuous and takes less of a toll on your body.

For people with knee, foot or leg problems, it’s appropriate to consult your physician before beginning a walking program. Walking on a soft surface like dirt or grass also can help reduce any stress on joints.

No equipment needed

One of the great aspects of walking is that it doesn’t require any special equipment. All you need are some good, well-cushioned walking shoes and the desire to get out and move. In addition, you can walk almost anywhere, and you don’t need a gym membership. You can even walk within your residence or your senior living community.

Can reduce risk for depression

Walking in nature can lower your risk for depression, another recent study found. Walkers who spent 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to a high-traffic urban environment, demonstrated a decrease in brain activity linked to depression.

Increases creativity

A 2014 study found that walking can help boost your creativity. The study found that walking either outside or inside increases your creative capacity, regardless of how much inspiration — or lack thereof — the environment provides. Walkers showed significantly higher levels of creativity on a consistent basis compared to people who sat.

To boost brain and body, take a walk

Even for people who aren’t accustomed to exercise, walking is a great option to improve a number of health markers. So get the go-ahead from your doctor, choose some comfortable walking shoes and get moving!