Walking is great exercise at any age, but for seniors, walking programs for a senior are an easy way to keep weight off, keep the cardiovascular system in top shape, and frankly, getting some fresh air never hurt anybody, no matter what your age.
The importance of staying physically active in one’s senior years cannot be overstated. It keeps weight off, lowers bad cholesterol levels, increases good cholesterol levels, lowers your blood pressure, helps keep blood sugar and diabetes under control and emotionally, it lowers stress levels. This latter benefit speaks to a holistic approach to health care that has additional benefits; your emotional health plays a large part in your physical well being, and walking is an outstanding way to round out the whole health picture.
Before committing to a walking program, seniors should check in with their primary care physician and ask some questions. These should include how to warm up, how to listen to what your body is telling you, how to stretch safely, how to cool down and how much water one should consume –before, during and after the average walk. Find out what length your first walks should be, how often you should take them, and how quickly you should up your miles or yards to stay within safe ranges for your age and physical abilities.
The secret to keeping it interesting enough to want to commit to an ongoing regimen is variety. Walking is cheap (really only requiring a good pair of walking shoes*), and can be carried out either outdoors or indoors, wherever there is an open area and you can get up a good head of steam. Walking to the mailbox just isn’t going to cut it; a couple of walks around the block however, can bring benefits quicker than you might have though possible.
*Walking shoes do not need to be expensive. However, they need secure, non-slip soles and have to fit comfortably. Buy a few good pairs of thick socks that the shoes can comfortably accommodate, and try shoes on in the store with thick socks to make sure they work out at home as well.
Wear weather-appropriate clothing, including a jacket even if it’s just a bit nippy out. As soon as you warm up, you can always tie the jacket around your middle, and you will want it again as you do your cool down; on your way home, for instance, when you slow your pace and allow your heart rate to get back to normal.
Check with local senior centers for walking programs, and see if there are other seniors who will commit to a senior walking program with you. There is safety in numbers, and it will keep it interesting to have companions with whom to chat, and for safety’s sake, it’s ideal to have someone there. You might find the added benefit of a walking partner or three also brings new friendships, which are based on a common goal of achieving good health in your later years.
Joining a senior walking program will also help you stay motivated to stick with your exercise routine. You can’t skip out on exercising if Ruth down the street is counting on you to walk with her!
Senior walking programs can provide an excellent outlet for low impact exercise and camaraderie. To find a walking program in your area, visit your local community center, go to your YMCA, start your own with your neighbors or spend some time searching online. You’re sure to find something that’s perfect for you.