Walking: It is one of the most effective ways to maintain your overall health as you age. It provides a myriad of benefits both physical and mental. Grab a buddy and walk! It can be your spouse, your neighbor, your children, a friend, your dog or any combination of these. If you don’t have a dog, consider adopting. Dogs are wonderful companions and can reduce your stress levels and they are dedicated to wanting to walk! Of course, prior to embarking on a new walking program (particularly if you already have health complications), talk to your physician first about how best to approach a walking routine. They may have important input or restrictions for you to consider.
Steady walking over time will help you to lose weight which can lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and help your overall circulation. In time it can also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Walking helps you to build muscle tone in your legs and even in your abdomen. It is an excellent way to help prevent the loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging. As walking is weight bearing (you being the weight) it can also reduce the risk of bone loss.
Another benefit to a regular thirty minute walk each day is an increase in balance and stability. It is well documented that falling down as we age can have disastrous consequences. As you walk you engage the hips, stomach and other muscles which keep the walking joints flexible. For anyone experiencing arthritis, it is important to keep moving and walking is a low impact activity that is good for your joints. The more you walk the better it can become for your balance, stability, and flexibility.
You can also improve the quality of your sleep! Many people find as they age that they have trouble with uninterrupted, restful sleeping patterns. Physical exertion (not exhaustion) is one of the keys to promote a good night’s sleep. The mental benefits of walking also aid in a balanced nights rest. The simple act of walking allows you to unwind your brain; no cell phones allowed unless for emergency purposes! Being out in the natural world helps your brain to reboot and stay young. It can slow mental decline which is a big factor for positive self-esteem and confidence. If at all possible walk in nature rather than on a treadmill at the gym. On inclement weather days a treadmill is fine but the benefits for your mental well-being are multiplied when outdoors. Remember to get your walking done in the daylight hours as exertion just prior to sleep does not promote restfulness and it can be dangerous to walk outdoors in the dark.
Aging and the advent of depression is a very real issue facing many seniors. Many are losing relatives and spouses, friends and co-workers. Loneliness can become a problem. You may be facing money challenges or health insurance coverage problems. There are so many big decisions that come at you in a moment when you would just prefer things to stay the same and be predictable. This can all be overwhelming and can bring about serious depression. Walking is an aerobic activity and aerobic activities release endorphins into your system. Endorphins are the “feel happy” chemical of your body. The simple act of taking a walk on a daily basis can ward off depression as you age.
So get yourself a good pair of sturdy shoes with a proper fit and get moving! It is one of the most important things you can do for your well-being. Walking is wonderful for people of all ages but particularly seniors. It can help you physically, make you happier and keep you mentally sharp as you live out your retirement years.