As we age, most of us are no longer playing competitive soccer or running marathons. Some of us were never very athletic and never formed an exercise habit. The good news is that we can start a program at any age, and walking is one of the best exercises for seniors.
Walking is not only relatively easy and inexpensive, but it can also be done at any time of day. If you’re a morning person, the cool fall mornings are beginning in Georgia and you’re in good company out on the streets. If you’re working during the day and need to walk later, grab your dog or a friend and get out there.
According to the CDC, we should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Why?
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.
It’s hard to argue with all those reasons.
I sat down recently with Lois Ricci, a retired geriatric nurse practitioner and President of the Georgia Gerontology Society, to talk about walking. “Even if you have a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair, you should be walking,” Ricci emphasized. “It’s not just about exercise, the social components of a walking routine are important for seniors. You get out and meet your neighbors and make friends,” she added.
Ricci was instrumental in getting Tucker the national distinction of being an “America Walks City,” and works with the Tucker Walks organization to create events and activities for the community.
The goal of Tucker Walks is to let residents know how walkable the city is. By providing information on parks, trails, and preplanned routes, they hope to inspire Tucker residents to begin walking either alone, with neighbors, or in an organized group.
If you’re not used to walking, Ricci suggests starting small. “You must start by looking at your general health and consider any limitations you might have, such as pulmonary problems or muscular-skeletal problems that should be taken into consideration. Talk to your doctor. But starting small and working slowly up to a half hour is a good goal.”
Walking groups for women, seniors, and many other groups are available all over the city. There are walks designed to expose you to nature, while others are in malls to keep you cool on a hot summer day. And if you can’t find one that suits you, you can create one on the Meetup website or app (www.meetup.com). Making new friends to walk with, or having a community event to plan for, can make walking more fun and give you a sense of accomplishment.
While we all think about resolutions in January, fall might just be the perfect time to set a new health goal and give walking a try.