For years, doctors have emphasized that walking is a perfect type of exercise for older adults. A good exercise program includes aerobic, muscle strengthening and balance activities. Walking is a great way to get all three, and here are some studies to help us make our walking workout even better:
Pick up the pace, and add some extra steps. Researchers from Tufts University studied over 4,000 older adults over the course of a decade, and found that while every little bit helps when it comes to exercise, the seniors in the study who pushed themselves to walk a little more and a little faster enjoyed better health. Those who walked at least 3 MPH and the equivalent of seven blocks per day lowered their risk of heart disease and stroke. “These results are especially relevant because, with advancing age, the ability to perform vigorous types of activity often decreases,” said study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. “Our findings support the importance of continuing light to moderate exercise to improve health across the lifespan.”
On the other hand, no need to overdo it. A study from Duke University School of Medicine found that for preventing prediabetes from progressing to full-blown diabetes, moderate-intensity exercise such as walking might be superior to a higher-intensity workout, such as jogging. This is something to discuss with your doctor, of course, but study author Dr. William Kraus observed, “High-intensity exercise tends to burn glucose more than fat, while moderate-intensity exercise tends to burn fat more than glucose. We believe that one benefit of moderate-intensity exercise is that it burns off fat in the muscles, which relieves the block of glucose uptake by the muscles. That’s important because muscle is the major place to store glucose after a meal.”
And perk up your style! Here’s another interesting study, this one from Queen’s University, Ontario. A team led by psychologists found that people who are feeling unhappy and depressed tend to walk a certain way, with less arm movement and shoulders rolled forward. A group of volunteers was instructed to instead adopt a walking style that was more animated—head up, shoulders back and “bouncing along,” the researchers described it. “It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we wanted to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” said study author Dr. Nickolaus Troje. The results? The study subjects who changed their walking style reported improved mood.
Focus on walking safety
The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that’s right for you.