As millions of seniors continue to struggle under the weight of the nation’s opioid crisis, many are ditching addictive medications in favor of an old school wonder drug: walking.
For older adults, walking is the most accessible, beneficial exercise. The rewards are many. Walking burns calories, strengthens the heart, lowers blood sugar, eases joint pain, boosts immunity, promotes better brain function, improves balance and coordination.
To get started walking, all you’ll need is a pair of sturdy walking shoes. Choose a walking route near your home. Or look for a scenic place to walk in your area, such as a trail or on the beach.
You can also recruit a friend or family member to walk with you and hold you accountable. Alternatively, you can add walking into your daily routine.
If you commute, get off your bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work. Walk a couple of blocks farther away from your office or home than usual and walk to and from your car. Consider walking instead of driving when you run errands. You can complete your tasks and fit in exercise at the same time.
If you have any orthopedic problems, such as arthritis in your knees and hips, you may want to use aquatic exercise or a stationary cycle to reduce the stress on your joints.
Even if you can’t find the time to perform a structured workout, you likely have time to put one foot in front of the other to get where you need to go.
Most people take 10,000 steps per day, even on days they don’t “work out.” Research at the National Institute on Aging found that people who increased their activity levels to 10,000 steps per day were 46 percent less likely to die in the following 10 years compared to those who stayed sedentary.
For some older adults or people with a chronic condition, 10,000 may not be the right exact number. But the fact remains: Walking is a great, free workout that can have a big impact on your health.