When it comes to staying healthy and happy, one of the easiest and best things seniors can do for themselves is taking a walk. Studies show that older adults who spend at least 30 minutes walking each day are privy to a wealth of benefits to both their physical and mental health. We already know staying active is essential to maintaining good physical health no matter your age, but as we get older, low-impact activities like walking can be the key to better health and even living a longer life. Here are five ways seniors can benefit from walking.
1. Better Physical Health
The list of ways in which walking positively impacts health in seniors is long. In addition to being a great way to maintain a healthy weight, walking is also great for cardiovascular health. Routine walking can improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and decrease the chance of cardiovascular disease. Walking is also a great way to strengthen bones, joints, and muscles, preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. For older adults with chronic conditions like arthritis, walking as little as three times a week for at least 20 minutes can strengthen abdominal and back muscles that contribute to chronic back pain. Along similar lines, the coordination and balance gained through regular walking also decrease the likelihood of falling for seniors. Finally, walking is a great way to naturally boost your immune system and ward off sickness.
2. Improves Mental Health
In addition to improving physical health, walking can be just as advantageous to mental health. The natural endorphins released through physical activity, including walking, can boost your mood, reduce anxiety, decrease depression, and create a sense of peace in older adults. For seniors who take their walks in the great outdoors, they’ll also experience the added benefit of increased Vitamin D exposure.
3. Slows Cognitive Decline
Walking has also been proven to slow mental decline in both older men and women. Studies have shown that staying active can improve attention, memory, processing speed, and cognitive function, which all contribute to cognitive decline and dementia. Studies have shown that men aged 71 to 93 who walked at least a quarter of a mile each day experienced half the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia when compared with those who don’t walk.
4. Fosters Social Connections
Staying connected to a community and having ample social interaction is paramount for the overall health of seniors. Walking can be a great way for older adults to get social. Whether by joining a walking group, getting out a few times a week with friends, or having short conversations with neighbors and community members along a route, walking provides plenty of opportunities to foster connections and relationships.
5. Promotes Better Sleep
As adults age, their quality of sleep can decline. Many seniors suffer from insomnia or experience diminishing hours in deep or REM sleep cycles. Physical activity helps tire the body out and put it in a better position to experience high-quality sleep. Studies have shown that older adults who walk have a much higher chance of experiencing restful sleep at night.