The Benefits of Walking in Later Life
Walking is so good for us all on so many levels; the great outdoors, the fresh air, the magnificent scenery and of course the calories burned. But walking in later life has been favoured as the best form of exercise and has an amazing impact on our minds, but why is this?
Firstly there are the major health benefits for your body. Age UK say that just 15 minutes of a walking a day will keep us active and make a real difference. As we age our metabolisms slow down, the risk of high blood pressure rises which can be a real red flag for heart disease and our bodies slow down and need some extra care.
Many people in later life feel that they don’t need to exercise, they feel tired and want to rest and relax, but ironically getting out there and walking in later life can actually give you higher levels of energy.Being physically active (and yes that does mean walking) can strengthen your heart, reducing risks of heart attacks, fights the risk of obesity which can lead to many, many issues including diabetes, and can even reduce your risk of developing cancer. The physical health benefits are real and clear and easy to see and understand, however it is the mental health benefits that can easily be missed.
Walking is often a sociable activity carried out with others, sometimes all we need is some fresh air and a good old natter and our mood is lifted ten fold. Walking in later life has even been hailed as a dementia deterrent, and in dementia cases it really eases symptoms, improving strength and flexibility, allowing better sleep, and potentially improving memory whilst slowing mental decline.
A recent study has found that dog walking in later life is a huge help in reducing mental and physical decline. Essentially just the same as regular walking, however having a furry friend demanding a walk can give you the boost of motivation needed to get up and just get out the house. It was found that Dog owners were sedentary for 30 minutes less per day, on average than those who didn’t dog walk, which in turn helped raise people’s positivity and even combated the negative effects of bad weather.
So is 15 minutes a day really enough to encourage all of these positive outcomes, how much walking in later life do we need to do and how often? Current government advice says that adults aged 65 or over, who have no issues that could affect their physical mobility should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. This does sound like a whole lot of walking when written in this way but if you break it down into daily walk it actually works out at around 20 minutes a day, which sounds a lot more manageable.
The best thing to do is not be daunted, if you are currently fairly sedentary and fancy taking on board the advice and getting out and walking then just do it, no excuses! Even a five minute walk will get you on the right track. Make sure to pick a walk that you’ll really enjoy; walk up or along a hill and take in the sunset, stroll along a coastal path and breath in the ocean air, and remember that although walking in later life is brilliant for physical health and surprisingly helpful for our mental health, it is also just actually really fun, relaxing and rewarding, so most of all just enjoy it!