Exercise has a plethora of benefits for mind, body, and spirit. When most people hear the word “exercise,” they think of running, sweating, jumping, gasping for breath. But in reality, walking can serve as an effective form of exercise, especially if you want to avoid heart problems.
There are many health benefits of walking, including promoting heart health, improving balance and boosting mental health. In fact, walking is considered to be one of the best exercises for older adults, especially for those who may not feel comfortable doing more rigorous exercises like lifting weights. But as it turns out, not all walking was created equal.
A research study published in the medical journal Circulation discovered that your duration and speed can have an impact on the health benefits of walking, specifically as it pertains to your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
Walking For Health: Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
To study the health benefits of walking and heart disease, researchers used data from the National Institutes of Health’s Cardiovascular Health Study, in which 4,207 men and women over the age of 65 were enrolled. The researchers analyzed data collected at each participants’ annual physical exam, which collected the average walking pace and distance, as well as any cardiovascular activity, like a heart attack or stroke.
After sifting through 10 years of this data, researchers found that the participants who walked faster than three miles per hour were able to cut their risk of heart disease in half. And when compared to those who walked less than five blocks a week, the participants who walked an average of seven blocks a day had a 47 percent lower risk of heart disease, providing a definite correlation between heart health and walking.
The researchers also noted that brisk walking is certainly not the only exercise that will lower the risk of heart problems. Other effective exercises for older adults mentioned in the research included hiking, swimming, biking, and gardening.
Steps To Take To Maximize The Health Benefits of Walking
Walking is one of the safest exercises for those with heart problems and other chronic health issues. In order to maximize your health benefits of walking for exercise, you need to take safety into consideration first. Here are a few things to have in place before you begin walking for health:
Speak to your doctor. You should always speak with your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine, even one that involves a simple exercise like walking. Your doctor will help you determine if you should use any type of support to help you balance, and also address any other limitations or concerns you may have.
Find a pair of good walking shoes. Walking luckily doesn’t require any equipment except for a pair of supportive shoes that will help you stay on your feet longer. To find the best walking shoes for seniors, visit a specialty running store, and always opt for comfort and support over style and bargains.
Enlist a buddy. Ask a family member, friend or neighbor if they’d like to walk with you a few times a week. Not only will this motivate you to adhere to your exercise routine, but it will also add a social component to your workout. If you’d prefer to exercise by yourself, listen to some energetic music to help you maintain a brisk walking pace.
Don’t forget to stretch! Stretching helps loosen your joints, which will make walking briskly much easier. Do some light stretches and start walking at a more leisurely pace for a few minutes to get your heart rate up before you really start to pick up the speed. Stretching after you exercise will also help to prevent muscle cramping, and help you remain limber.
Once you establish a steady routine, you can challenge yourself by making your walks longer, tackling some uphill climbs, or even wearing light weights around your arms or legs.
Use A Safety Net
Whether or not you have heart problems, walking is one of the greatest tripping hazards for seniors, especially if you come across uneven ground or cracked pavement. Ensure your safety with our Mobile Guardian medical alert system so you can receive help anywhere you may need it. Our round-the-clock emergency operators will be able to pinpoint your location and send help directly to you—whether you’re simply relaxing at home or walking around the neighborhood.