Walking is the best wonder drug for senior citizens.The National Institute on Aging suggests that regular aerobic activity such as walking has health benefits across the board for older Americans. The advantages of walking as exercise include alleviation of arthritis symptoms, less anxiety and depression and overall heart health, among other perks.
The secret to a successful walking program is choosing a sensible plan and sticking to it. Don't be overly ambitious. The big benefits of walking come over time. Tailor your time and energy output to an appropriate level for your age and health status. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that older Americans engage in moderate to mild aerobic exercise for at least 2.5 hours per week. Spread out over seven days that translates into about 20 minutes a day. This guideline is not a hard and fast rule however. Choose what's right for you and build your walking program at your own pace.
Before launching a vigorous walking program make sure that you warm up your muscles and do a balance check. Start out slowly. Stand up straight and raise your arms above your head. If you're feeling steady, rotate your arms in a windmill motion. This gets your blood going and loosens up your arm and shoulder muscles. If you're feeling unsteady, stand behind a chair and hold onto it with one hand. Practice lifting one foot and then the other. This mild balance exercise can help prepare you for your walking program.
Setting the Pace
Before you begin, know where you're going. Choose a route that you're familiar with and start out slow. A flat and broad surface without too many hills is best for beginners. Use your entire body, including arms, as you walk. Swing your arms back and forth with an easy motion -- but don't overdo it -- it shouldn't hurt. When you incorporate arm motion into a walking routine you work your entire torso and maximize aerobic benefits. Set a sensible pace to start and give yourself at least 5 to 10 minutes at that speed before you start to push yourself.
Path to Power Walking
A regular and consistent walking routine can be a building block to more a more vigorous aerobic and strength training system. When you've gotten to know yourself and your potential you can start including some additional features into your walking program. Strength training is an easy one to add Start out small with a 1 or 2 pound weight in each hand. Weights should not feel too heavy. Try lifting each weight between eight and 10 times. If this is not difficult, then the weight is right for you. If you can't lift and repeat eight times, then the weight is too heavy. Once you get it right, walk your usual route with your hand weights for a great full body workout
Body and Mind
Walking gives your entire system a boost and can be a key part of a healthy and independent senior lifestyle. For best result, be reasonable and realistic when starting your walking routine. The idea is to give yourself the benefits of exercise while learning your limits and getting to know your own body.
Rebecca Sims is a librarian and educator, specializing in law, health sciences and education. She teaches classes in legal research, information technology, patient education, cataloging and digital asset management. Sims holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Academy of Art College and a Masters in library and information science.