Taking steps to a healthy lifestyle

Could lifelong fitness be as easy as taking a walk? Researchers say yes! In the United States, adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.

Senior couple hiking

Walking, in all its beautiful simplicity, fits the bill quite well. What’s more, it’s the perfect gateway exercise for older people who have been relatively inactive for a while.

One long walk vs several short walks? Similar benefits, study says.

Tufts University recently reported on a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers found that the benefits of walking on longevity were equivalent whether people got their steps in one long walk, a few shorter ones, or even brief walk breaks of a few minutes – as long as it was done regularly.

Preserving Mobility

One of the top benefits of walking for older adults is retaining physical mobility; the ability to walk without assistance. Tufts University led a study in 2014 that explored the benefits of physical activity in older adults.

According to a Tufts University article, this study, for the first time, showed conclusively that a regular exercise program can preserve independence among older men and women.

“We think that one of the reasons older people lose their independence is because of some problem they have with their muscle function,” explains the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Roger A. Fielding. “Therefore, if you design an intervention that can help slow the rate of muscle loss or restore some of the muscle function, it may help to prevent individuals from ultimately becoming disabled. We’ve shown that pretty well with exercise.

Recently, Fielding used the data to further determine the actual amount of physical activity necessary to prevent disability in at-risk individuals. Researchers found that an increase in physical activity of just 45 minutes per week reduced the chance of mobility disability by about 70%!

Better late than never

The overarching conclusion is this: Even those people who are fairly sedentary, and/or start late in the game, can benefit from increasing physical activity. Researchers agree that walking is a great entry-level exercise as it’s simple, free and safe. A brisk walk, combined with a light aerobic workout and strength training, can up your odds of remaining active and independent as you age.