Health Walking for the SilverSneakers Generation
We all know that exercise is essential for our mental and physical health. And, we know that keeping active becomes increasingly important as we age. Mobility, balance, and heart health can all be improved with a bit of daily exercise and can lead us to live a longer, happier, and pain-free life. A simple but effective way for people ages 65 and up, also known as the “SilverSneakers Generation,” to get daily exercise is by implementing a regimen of daily walks.
As we kick off summer in Wisconsin, it is the perfect time to begin a walking program or go outside more often. Here are our healthy walking tips to get started.
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking, while being a simple activity, boasts numerous health benefits. A considerable health benefit of walking for the SilverSneakers Generation is that it is low-impact. People with arthritis and other joint problems can benefit significantly from simple low-impact aerobic exercise. Moving helps to increase blood flow and strengthen bones and muscles.
In addition to increasing strength, walking is also a great activity to improve reaction time, coordination, and balance. These factors are vital to keeping stable and preventing injuries from trips and falls. You can see even more improvements in your stability by incorporating simple balance techniques into your daily walk.
While many of the benefits of walking can be physical, it can also have several mental health benefits. Like many other exercise activities, walking can have mood-boosting effects. The feel-good endorphins released whenever we raise our heart rate also help us to better cope with stress, relax, and find mental balance.
Proper Footwear Prevents Injury
Walking is a great activity that almost anyone can implement into their daily routine. All you need to get started is a pair of sneakers! While you might want to dust off your old, beat-up tennis shoes, proper footwear is crucial for a healthy walk.
First, identify the type of athletic shoes that work best for your foot. The proper footwear will ensure you have the comfort you need for a successful walking session. Identify your foot arch type to begin choosing the footwear that will keep you comfortable with each step. In the case where you may need a little extra support, foot orthotics can make all the difference. Orthotics prevent injury by encouraging your body to move smoothly and provide an extra cushion in all the right places.
To get started with a pair of foot orthotics, check-in with someone like a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help you determine the right fit and level of stability for your footwear. A professional assessment is especially crucial if you have foot, leg, or even back pain—an insert, or orthotic, might be just the thing your foot needs to hit the ground with ease. Proper foot orthotics can help you maintain correct form and get the most out of your walk.
Start Low and Slow
Implementing a walking regime into your daily routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It also doesn’t have to be a daunting experience if you have not previously experienced an exercise program or have been recently inactive.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has laid out a simple, but effective 12-week walking schedule. If you have trouble finding the time to walk, scheduling can get you started on a healthy walking journey. They recommend walking at least five days per week and starting with a warm-up at a comfortable pace for about five minutes. Then add 5 minutes of a more “brisk” walk followed by a 5-minute cool-down at your comfortable pace. They recommend adding two minutes of “brisk” walking per week. At the end of the 12 weeks, you will be a 30-minute brisk walk, with a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down. This walk should be a good balance of comfortable and challenging enough to get your heart rate up a bit for optimal results.
If 30 minutes of brisk walking isn’t your style, try incorporating more walking into your daily life whenever possible. For example, choose the stairs over an elevator, walk to nearby destinations instead of driving, or park at the far end of a parking lot at your destination whenever possible. Finding small ways to walk more can add up over time and improves your overall activity level.
Walk With Purpose
Walking is a wonderful activity because you can achieve multiple goals at once. If you are walking in a safe and private area, take the time spent walking to listen to an audiobook or podcast. A walk is a perfect time to listen and earn something new or become immersed in a new fictional story.
You can also incorporate mindful meditation into your walk. Meditation is a mind-clearing activity that can help you reduce stress, connect to the present moment and cultivate a more mindful attitude. Going for a “mindful” walk can help you achieve the benefits of meditation and walking simultaneously.
If a walking regimen isn’t your thing, find a way to walk with a purpose. Helping others is often a great way to help motivate yourself to feel good. There are several ways you can donate your time to others that keep you active. You can volunteer your time or help a family member or friend run some errands. Perhaps there is a local animal shelter in need of a dog walker. Or you could use your walking time to clean up a local park. No matter how you volunteer your time, giving back in this way can also help improve your own mental and physical health.
At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we want you to keep active and live a happy and pain-free life. If you are experiencing an orthopedic condition or injury preventing you from keeping healthy and walking with ease, reach out to one of our talented orthopedic specialists today. They can help you address whatever issue you are experiencing and get back on your feet as soon as possible.