Everywhere we turn there seems to be some new standard about how much walking we need to do “to be”, “to get” or “to stay” healthy. How do we know what’s true versus what is “trending” in the exercise world? Let’s look at some standards and questions about walking and seniors; why it’s good for us and how much do we need in our lives?
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Benefits of walking
Regardless of age, walking is one of the best and easiest exercises that can be done. If you’re physically able to walk, then you should be…no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.
In addition to the potential weight loss/maintenance benefits, other proven benefits are:
- Prevent or manage heart health conditions
- Strengthen overall cardiovascular fitness
- Improve muscle endurance
- Strengthen bones and muscles (which we lose mass in both as we age)
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer in women
- Boosts our immune system
- Can help to fight off depression and anxiety
How much and when?
With all of these amazing benefits, why would we not walk? The big question on everyone’s mind is, “How much do we actually need to walk and at what interval, to achieve these important gains?”
One of the trending opinions in the last few years is that 10,000 ‘steps’ daily is optimum. But how far is that and how long does that take? 10,000 is just under 5 miles. Before you start to think that is way too much to walk per day, consider that the average American already walks approximately 4,000 – 7,000 steps a day. Since we’re not an overly active culture, it’s not impossible to increase that number, just by getting a little more active.
However, we now know that the 10,000 step goal was part of a marketing plan back in 1960, to get people more active. A recent study done in 2019 by Dr. I-Min Lee found:
“Among older women, as few as approximately 4400 steps per day was significantly related to lower mortality rates compared with approximately 2700 steps per day. With more steps per day, mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at approximately 7500 steps per day. Stepping intensity was not clearly related to lower mortality rates after accounting for total steps per day.”
For those of us who felt intimidated by the 10,000 step a day goal, this is good news. It equals out to just under 4 miles a day. Many young and middle-aged adults are already walking that amount in their daily lives.
For those of us who are older and are walking less due to not going to work or running daily errands like we used to, getting out for a walk might require a bit more effort. How much does 7500 steps a day work out to?
- 1 – 75 minute walk
- 2 – 38 minute walks
- 3 – 25 minute walks
- 5 – 15 minute walks
The best thing to do to receive the most health advantages is to work your way up. If you are capable of going on a 10 minute walk, then start with that. Then after a few days, increase to 15 minutes. Once you’re able to go for 15 minutes without getting winded, you know it’s time to increase to 20 or 25 minutes.
The good news is that you can take these steps in any interval(s) throughout the day that work for you.
Where to walk?
The fall is a lovely time to get outside and take a stroll. Remember to try and keep up a good clip, this will provide you with the most benefit. Once the cold weather hits, many people take to indoor running tracks or they hit a treadmill, either at a gym or at home. There are even clubs you can join to walk in large malls or shopping centers when the weather is too bad to be outside.
No matter where you are physically, even for someone who is bedridden, there are ways to increase your general activity level. Start small and build on each day’s progress. Your health, your heart, bones, muscles and mind will thank you.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Click here to contact us or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
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