The Health Benefits of Walking for Seniors

Jul 1, 2021 | Senior Health

We all know that getting regular physical activity is one of the best ways to improve our health and stay healthy. Most of us probably aren’t getting enough exercise on a regular basis, especially seniors. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start taking care of your health, and one of the best ways to stay healthy – walking – is an easy, affordable and enjoyable way to get on the move to a healthier you.

“Being able to walk is one of the biggest factors in helping individuals stay independent,” says Beth McGowan Welch, Executive Director at Park Place of Elmhurst, a Life Plan Community in the Chicago-area region. “Older adults who walk regularly for exercise have better health, mobility and balance, and are usually able to perform various types of exercise that can help them age with a focus on independence.”

Because walking only requires a path and a pair of shoes, Beth says that it’s a perfect exercise for everyone from very healthy seniors to those who haven’t exercised in years. “You don’t have to walk miles on end to start seeing benefits,” she explains. “Even if you just walk around the block in the evening, you’ll be taking a big step towards better health.”

How does walking help improve health?

The article “5 Surprising Benefits of Walking” by Harvard Medical School, details several interesting benefits that walking has for seniors. Besides the fact that walking helps people lose and maintain weight, it’s also been found that walking eases joint pain. Studies have shown that walking reduces pain related to arthritis, and can even help prevent arthritis from forming. Walking also helps lubricate the joints and strengthen muscles.

Another surprising benefit of walking is that it boosts immune systems. One study showed that men and women who walked at least 20 minutes a day five times a week were sick less than those who didn’t exercise. When they did get sick, symptoms were milder and the sickness lasted for a shorter duration.

Walking also helps reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer, specifically breast cancer. An American Cancer Society study 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.

How far should a senior walk each day?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults should partake in 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week, or approximately 30 minutes a day, five times a week. That translates out to 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day, which is approximately three to four miles. However, that’s a blanket recommendation, and may not always be right for older adults depending on your health situation and ability. Generally, seniors tend to walk between 2,000 and 9,000 steps per day, or approximately 1 to 4.5 miles. While the CDC recommendation is a good place to start, check with your doctor to make sure that you’re healthy enough for that type of activity (always a good idea when starting a new exercise routine).

What are some walking safety tips for seniors?

Although walking is a low-impact and overall safe activity, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re keeping yourself safe when you head out for a brisk stroll.

  • Carry your ID, your cell phone and a small amount of cash with you. It’s a good idea to have emergency contact information on hand.
  • Stay alert when walking, especially if you’re by yourself. If listening to music, keep the volume low so you can hear the environment around you. It’s also a good idea to not talk on the phone while you walk, as it can be distracting.
  • Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to get back.
  • Stay in well-lit places that have other people around, like a park or a local walking track.
  • Wear clothes that will make you visible to others, such as a reflective jacket when walking at night, or brightly colored clothing during the day.
  • Make sure that your footwear is appropriate. Be sure your shoes are sturdy, not worn out and are laced properly. This will help you maintain proper footing and help you avoid tripping or injury.

Is it safe to exercise when it’s hot outside?

There are a lot of articles about staying safe in the summer heat, so it’s not a surprise that some seniors might question if exercising is safe to do when it’s hot outside. As long as you take precautions, the answer is yes – summer is a great time to exercise because there are so many enjoyable warm-weather activities that take place. Here are a few tips for helping stay safe if you choose to walk outside during the warmer months.

  • Check the weather before you start walking. If it’s going to be a very hot or humid day, consider walking inside at a shopping mall, or do other exercises inside.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, such as water and fruit juice.
  • Wear clothes that are loose and light-colored to help keep you cool.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion, and seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms.

Discover Park Place Walk & Talk Community Walking Club

If you’re in the Elmhurst area and want to get walking, you’re invited to join the Park Place residents as they walk and talk their way to a better lifestyle. Every Friday from April to August, we meet at 8:15 a.m. (weather permitting). To find out more information, call 630-936-4501 or visit our Facebook page for more event details.

“Our area has so many wonderful parks and places to walk,” says Beth. “Park Place itself has a very scenic campus with walking trails, which our residents enjoy strolling on a regular basis. Besides our campus, we’re also very near York Woods and the many other parks in our city.”

So lace up your walking shoes, grab a water bottle and get moving – what are you waiting for?

Discover the Difference at Park Place of Elmhurst

Park Place of Elmhurst is a different kind of retirement community – you’ll enjoy a lifestyle unlike any you’ve experienced. A lifestyle that is maintenance-free with lots of helpful services, remarkable amenities with engaging neighbors just outside your door – all backed by Providence Life Services, a Christian-based organization that’s been a trusted name in Chicago-area senior living for more than a century.

Offering Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation and Memory Support, Park Place of Elmhurst provides peace of mind. Residents of Park Place have made the decision and moved into a Life Plan Community that will ensure whatever life change happens, Park Place is the right place for all their care needs. One of the fabulous benefits of choosing a Life Plan Community is the peace of mind knowing that you have made the decision and partnered with a community committed to providing all the levels of living from the day you move in.

We encourage you or your loved one to contact us to learn more about our exclusive community or schedule a personal tour by calling 630-239-5127.