By Michael Lasalandra, BIDMC Correspondent

Walking is great exercise for anybody, but it is particularly good for senior citizens who may not be able to engage in other more strenuous types of physical activity.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

“Walking keeps the muscles strong, promotes bone and joint health, keeps the cardiovascular system healthy and helps promote longevity,” says Jamie Goldstein, physical therapist and clinical supervisor for outpatient rehab services at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, which is affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

One reason walking is so good for seniors, she says, is that “it is done at a relatively low aerobic capacity so most people can walk at a certain speed comfortably. They can walk fast or slow and still get benefits.”

But there are some tips offered to seniors before they start a walking program or even if they are already involved in regular walking for exercise.

“Seniors should not be afraid to use an assistive device such as a cane or walker if they need to,” Goldstein says. “The act of walking is important. Many seniors, when they start losing their ability to walk, choose to sit. But it is important to be up and moving.”

It is also important to walk for a certain chunk of time, not just for a few seconds, she adds. “Ideally, you want to walk for 15 to 30 minutes at least three times a week.”

Seniors should also be careful to walk on flat surfaces and to avoid walking in icy conditions or on sand or grass, which might not provide stable footing, she adds.

Walking should also be done in well-lit areas. For some, walking in the mall fits the bill.

Goldstein recommends a good athletic sneaker with laces or velcro straps and a back. “You can fall out of flip flops or clogs,” she notes.

The American Podiatric Association suggests warming up before the walk and cooling off afterwards, not to walk on surfaces that are too hard, avoiding walking in cold weather and to pay careful attention to your feet so as to detect pain or injuries.

Other experts suggest getting a physical before you start any walking program, starting out slow and building up the time of the walks, and walking inside on a treadmill if conditions outside are not conducive to walking.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted: May 2013


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