We’ve all heard about the importance of exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle, especially as we age. Usually, the word “exercise” brings to mind working out at a gym or playing an active sport such as tennis. However, there is another highly beneficial form of exercise that is much simpler, convenient and inexpensive: Walking!
Kim Sager, Director of Marketing and Sales at The Bridges at Warwick in Jamison, PA, says, “For many senior adults today, walking is the ideal form of exercise. The National Institute on Aging confirms that regular aerobic activity such as walking has wide-ranging health benefits for older Americans.
“Walking promotes health in several important ways that add to our physical, emotional and cognitive well-being. While some senior adults might believe they are too old to gain any benefit from walking, the fact is it is never too late to get started. It has been shown that beginning a walking program at any age can add life to your years and years to your life.”
The Surprising Value of Walking
Today, the value of walking is backed by scientific research that supports a variety of health benefits – some of which may seem rather surprising. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, says that walking is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”
Dr. Frieden and other health experts have identified several specific health benefits that are associated with a regular walking regimen, including:
1. Controls Weight Gain – Although this particular benefit may not be very surprising, the specific ways in which walking helps you control weight gain are quite unique. Harvard researchers studying obesity-promoting genes found that for people who walked briskly each day, the effects of such genes were cut in half. Other research found that regular walking helps control weight gain by curbing cravings for chocolate and other sugary snacks.
2. Boosts the Immune System – One study of more than 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes per day, five days per week, experienced 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. Walkers also showed milder symptoms and shorter durations if they did get sick.
3. Eases Joint Pain –According to the Arthritis Foundation, our joints get their nutrients from fluid that circulates as we move. The impact of movement compresses and lubricates the joint cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. Walking also protects the joints by strengthening the muscles that support them. Studies show that walking reduces arthritis-related pain in the knees and hips, and covering five to six miles a week can prevent arthritis from developing in the first place.
4. Supports Brain Health and Memory – Walking can help seniors avoid age-related memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. A University of California study showed that in 6,000 women age 65 and older, those who walked more experienced lower age-related memory decline. Participants who walked 2.5 miles each day had a 17% decline in memory, compared to a 25% decline in those who barely walked at all.
Another study from the University of Virginia found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile a day were half as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less.
5. Improves Heart Health – Not surprisingly, a daily walk is good for your heart. What is surprising is this: When researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at long-term studies of runners and walkers, they found that if you cover the same distance, the heart health benefits were about the same. Both walking and running led to similar reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even coronary heart disease.
6. Lowers Risk for Glaucoma – According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, a regular exercise regimen, such as walking three or more times each week, can successfully reduce pressure in the eye. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) damages the optic nerve, but regular exercise can have an IOP-lowering effect. This benefit only continues, though, as you keep exercising.
7. Reduces Risk of Breast Cancer –Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
Start Down the Path to Better Health Today!
Adds Kim, “Probably the hardest part of starting a healthier lifestyle through walking is taking that first step. Start slowly and increase your distance over time. If you are like most people, you will soon find that a daily walk becomes an enjoyable and productive part of your day – and something you look forward to.”
There are also some things you can do to add to the enjoyment. For example:
- Make walking a social event – Form a walking group with your friends and neighbors and use your walks as a way to socialize.
- Make it fun as well as productive – Try listening to favorite music or an audio book, calling a friend or family member or helping a pet to get their exercise as well.
- Make it a challenge – Set a goal each week for how long you want to walk.
- Keep it interesting – Vary your route often and enjoy the change of scenery.
“At The Bridges at Warwick,” says Kim, “we practice what we preach. We take wellness seriously. From group fitness classes to yoga and specialized therapy designed to improve balance and endurance, our residents are encouraged to actively engage in their own well-being. The Fox Optimal Living Program provided by Fox Rehabilitation™ is one way that we ensure every one of our residents is reaching his or her highest potential.”
Your Family Resource for Senior Living Information and Support
If you are caring for a loved one or seeking answers to your questions, our highly knowledgeable and understanding team at The Bridges at Warwick stands ready to help in a variety of ways. In addition to providing exceptional senior living services and memory care, The Bridges at Warwick is a wonderful resource for families. We invite you to view our weekly articles and tips on important subjects for caregivers and welcome you to join us for our free public education seminars and events found on our monthly calendar.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
Now open, you’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where every day is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program is for our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our specialized, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.