What are the Health Benefits of Taking a Walk
Everyone knows the importance exercise plays in your overall health, no matter your age. Even if you’re an older adult who can’t exercise intensely or for as long as when you were younger, regular exercise is just as necessary for your health and well-being. The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to be intense, overly time-consuming, or expensive. You don’t have to go to the gym every day or invest in costly exercise equipment to begin and maintain a fitness routine. Seniors can gain tremendous health benefits from simply going for a walk, especially outdoors.
Benefits of Walking Outdoors
Walking is a great, low-stress and low-impact exercise for seniors. And there are powerful additional benefits of taking a walk outdoors. Being outdoors allows you to experience beautiful and ever-changing surroundings. Seasons change, birds call, the sky beautifully varies with the weather and time of day. The changing surroundings keep you paying attention to your path, allowing for concentration. Fresh air is stimulating. There’s a lot of evidence of the physical and emotional benefits of spending time in green spaces.
People who stay indoors all the time are exposed to artificial, sometimes harsh, lights and bright lights during naturally dark times of day. This can have a negative effect on your emotional state of mind. Spending time outdoors and being exposed to natural light is shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, giving your body and mind a natural boost of positive energy.
Walking with a group of friends or loved ones can also bring the benefits of active socialization. Maintaining an active social life is proven to increase the physical and emotional health of seniors. Also, if you walk with a group, you’ll be more likely to hold yourself accountable to keep up your routine.
One of the more obvious benefits of taking a walk for older adults is heart health. A comfortable elevation in your heart rate from a brisk walk can reduce the risk of several cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack and stroke. Taking a walk even a few times a week lowers the risk of heart disease, and walking every day can reduce this risk even more.
Going for a walk after a meal can reduce the blood sugar spike that can sometimes occur after eating. You can use the energy in the calories you’ve consumed to power your muscles, rather than remaining sedentary and allowing your blood sugar levels to possibly fluctuate more.
Another great benefit of regularly walking for seniors is that it helps you manage your body weight. This can ease pain by reducing stress on joints by lightening the load you’re carrying. If you sometimes deal with joint pain, you may feel that walking isn’t realistic. However, even an easy walk can alleviate some of the discomfort you may be experiencing from joint injury or arthritis. Working your large muscle groups and balance muscles can help reduce back pain, and stronger muscles can ease the stress put on other joints such as knees and hips.
As you get older, your immune system can tend to weaken. Regular physical activity is proven to help your immune system stay strong and effective, making you less likely to get sick. And if you get sick less often, you’re better able to keep exercising, staying fit and healthy and enjoying your life in general.
The increased blood flow that comes with exercise helps feed the brain the vital nutrients and oxygen it needs to remain healthy and sharp. There’s even evidence that regular, steady cardiovascular exercise can help older adults improve cognitive function. Also, regular exercise leads to better sleep, which helps cognitive function, while also helping the body heal physically. And proper rest can do wonders for your mood.
Before You Start
Talk to your doctor before you start your new walking routine, to determine an appropriate level of intensity, and the rate of increased activity that’s right for you. You should also equip yourself with a proper pair of well-fitting walking shoes. They’re not necessarily expensive. You may consider consulting a podiatrist, especially if you’ve consulted with one in the past about any potential issues with the health of your feet. And as always, pay attention to the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
How to Start
Starting is simple. Go slow and take it easy. Enjoy yourself. You can really use your time walking outside in nature – perhaps with a friend, family member, or group – as a holistic approach to improving your overall well-being in all the ways mentioned above. And remember to get and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
The American Cancer Society has found that seniors who walk even two hours per week lower their risk of death, compared to those who don’t walk regularly. And the benefits increase as your walking increases, especially if you go on a daily walk.
The Holistic Approach to Wellness at Broadview
Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College is an independent living community in Westchester County that offers a wide range of social and cultural activities, and a holistic approach to the overall wellness of its residents that will touch every aspect of daily life, including lifelong learning. We offer independent living, assisted living and memory care. You can select from apartments homes in a variety of floor plans or opt for one of our especially spacious semi-attached villas. The features, finishes, and space available create a true neighborhood home, all within walking distance of all our community services and amenities.
And for the physical and emotional health benefits of walking outdoors, we’re situated on a beautiful 40-acre wooded site, including an 11-acre park with walking trails and lots of opportunities for all sorts of outdoor exercise.
To find out more about the wide range of wonderful residential options, services and amenities at Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College, contact us.