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senior health care walkingEveryone knows they are supposed to exercise, but isn’t it too late to start an exercise routine once one is elderly, sick or under home health care?  The good news it is almost never too late to introduce some kind of exercise.  Obviously high-impact aerobic classes are not going to be a starting place for the elderly who have not previously been active, but walking for about 30 minutes a day is manageable for many seniors. Studies have shown that, even into one’s 90s, cardiovascular health and strength can be improved with regular physical activity.

Before beginning an exercise routine, it is best to check with a doctor about the best strategy for that individual and to make sure that any activity undertaken will be safe. Most people, especially older adults, are not getting enough regular exercise and often walking seems manageable since it is something most seniors are already doing each day to carry out the basic activities of daily living.  The key for those individuals is to increase the amount of time they are walking and make sure they are doing it daily.

The potential benefits of walking are many.  Senior health care studies have shown that:

Walking can increase one’s life span by promoting better health: Leading a sedentary lifestyle results in lower aerobic capacity and in loss of muscle.  Muscle loss affects flexibility and sense of balance which can increase the risk of falls. Walking as a form of exercise, helps combat these, and can also help maintain a lower blood pressure and prevent high blood pressure from developing or worsening.  Walking also seems to help stave off or lower the effects of osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, disabilities and weight gain.  Regular exercise diminishes the risk of premature death.

Walking can provide mobility and independence: Being able to get around can help give seniors a sense of purpose and helps them avoid feeling like a burden on others. The longer a senior is able to remain independent, possibly even continuing to work part-time or be involved in volunteer work, the better for his or her overall sense of purpose and feeling like a contributing member of society. Even if they rely on others for some assistance or have home health care assistance, being able to do some things on their own helps prolong a sense of independence, which in turn helps promote good mental health.

Walking promotes good mental health: Being mobile and having a sense of purpose can improve self-worth.  Together, these benefits can help seniors avoid feeling like a burden, which in turn helps seniors avoid falling into depression.

Walking can affect your brain: Regular exercise can promote better reasoning, memory and reaction time.

Given all of these benefits, walking can be a great way to promote all aspects of health and physical and mental wellbeing.  Whether it’s at a mall in combination with some shopping, out enjoying nature or walking in the community and connecting with others, getting out and walking is a great way to go for older adults.