Seniors: Walk Faster, Live Longer

Image of male and female seniors out walking

Image courtesy of www.thehealthjournals.com

By picking up walking speed early on, seniors can greatly enhance the benefits of walking – including improving their chances of living longer. However, podiatrists and other foot care experts point out that proper footwear and taking care of feet is essential to a successful walking regimen.

As part of a regular exercise regimen, it’s long been known that walking enables older people to stay fit longer and increase their physical stamina. An interesting new development, however, is that a recent study found the speed at which seniors walk also correlates with their longevity.

A study on ambulation by Stephanie Studenki, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh found that the faster someone over 65 covered a short distance, the longer he or she could expect to live. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson reported “The difference was so dramatic, that the chance of living another ten years for 75-year old men, depending on their gait speed, ranged from a low one-in-five chance to a nearly guaranteed nine-in-ten.”

By picking up walking speed early on, seniors can greatly enhance the benefits of walking – including improving their chances of living longer. However, podiatrists and other foot care experts point out that proper footwear and taking care of feet is essential to a successful walking regimen.

Carol J. Buck, CEO of Xenna Corporation, a distributor of natural foot care products nationwide, says “According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, walking is the number one exercise activity for seniors aged 55 and over.” Of course, before starting any exercise program including walking, a physical exam and medical clearance is advisable.

Buck offers the following tips for seniors who want to start a walking regimen, or enhance the benefits of their current routine: Start  slowly. Push ahead gradually, building up to a brisk walk, doing one-half hour  stints at least four times a week.

  1. Walk  on an even surface, not on rough trails which may have hidden holes or
    other obstacles which could cause injury. If possible, walk on a track rather than a cement surface.
  2. Vary the route or direction you walk each day, in order to avoid using muscles  the same way all the time.
  3. Buy good, supportive shoes specially designed for walking. It’s better to purchase walking shoes from a specialty athletic shoe store, where staff is more knowledgeable about style and proper fit. Buy shoes that are comfortable, and wait until the afternoon to try on new shoes, since feet tend to swell as the day wears on.
  4. Take smaller, faster steps and swing arms faster as well, keeping them close to
    sides.
  5. Do a foot self-inspection every night (or morning) to check for blisters,  discoloured toenails, cracks or other problems. If needed, see a podiatrist for regularly scheduled foot care.

“Walking is such a beneficial exercise – for body and soul,” says Buck, “but feet are often ignored until problems develop. Proper daily foot care is essential to a successful walking routine, as well as assuring that feet continue to look attractive as we age. Especially, if we plan to live into our ‘80’s or ‘90’s and keep stepping lively!”

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About Jim Lesses

Jim Lesses is a semi-retired Australian musician, blogger and photographer trying to live up to his personal motto: Love The Life You Live, by travelling on extended journeys as often and for as long as he can. As a solo traveller, Jim has taken himself on two round the world trips since 2008, and is planning his next journey for 2012.
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