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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on July 17th, 2014

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The Walk of Life: The Importance of Walking for Your Aging Parents

assisted living | Health Tips for Senior Citizens | 60-day stay trial | Aging & Caregiving

96650A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reinforced what has long been suspected: regular exercise is critically important for seniors.

While many people assume that this involves running five miles a day or participating in vigorous step aerobics classes, the truth is that less extreme measures offer a multitude of rewards.

In fact, just 35 minutes of daily walking can make a huge difference in the health of your aging parents.

Fitness Matters

Older Americans who maintain walking programs experience significantly improved health compared to their non-walking peers. Benefits include reduced risk of premature death, heart disease, colon cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and stroke.

An effective weight control measure, walking also helps increase balance, strength, and flexibility, which reduces the risk of trips and falls.

A Brain Boost

Walking isn't just good for the body; it’s also good for the mind. Older adults who exercise enjoy enhanced cognitive skills related to memory, reasoning and reaction time.

There are plenty of psychological benefits, as well. Walking enhances an individual's sense of purpose and worth. There is even evidence that regular activity may increase positive feelings and decrease the risk of clinical depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Walking even promotes better sleep!

The Independence Issue

In combination with strength training, walking programs help to enhance an older adult’s ability to take care of themselves and remain independent. Additionally, walking can promote critical social connections within your loved one's community.

The First Step

While many seniors lead sedentary lifestyles, it's never too late to take the first step on the walking path to better health. Encourage your aging parents to begin at their levels of ability -- even 50 feet is a start! -- and gradually increase both distance and speed. Be sure to include a stretching and cool down period before and after exercise. If you have any concerns, your aging loved one's primary care physician is a valuable resource.

Key Takeaways

  • Walking delivers comprehensive physical health benefits to seniors.
  • Walking promotes overall wellness, including mental and emotional health.
  • Regular exercise -- such as walking -- is a critical factor in maintaining independence throughout the aging process.
  • It’s never too late to begin reaping the benefits of a regular walking routine.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.