Walking for exercise is recommended for every phase of life! Walking is the easiest physical activity to engage in, and it brings multiple benefits. The ability to get around readily is often the deciding factor in whether an older adult can stay living at home.
Many older adults are hesitant to walk much. If you sense resistance, ask your loved one about concerns. He or she may be afraid of falling, or of the neighborhood. Other common obstacles include foot problems, uncomfortable shoes, depression, or poor eyesight.
Begin by getting the doctor’s approval. Getting the thumbs up from the doctor may help your relative get going. Even short 10-minute walks are beneficial.
Review safe walking practices:
- What to bring. Dress in layers. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. Choose flexible shoes that fit well and provide a nonslip sole. Carry a cell phone or other device for emergency help. Bring water. And bring any usual walking aids, such as a cane or walker, properly fitted to your relative’s size.
- Where to walk. When weather permits, walk outdoors. Choose smooth-surfaced, well-lit, and low-traffic locations. This might be a walking path in the neighborhood or a nearby school or park. In bad weather or overly hot weather, try a shopping mall.
- How to walk. Focus on deep breathing and good posture. The goal is natural, even strides with arms swinging easily. Eventually the pace should be brisk enough to raise the heart rate yet permit conversation. But in the beginning, you want it to be easy and fun so it will become an enjoyable habit.
Ideally, see if your loved one can find a walking buddy or walking group. Especially for people who are not used to exercise, it’s more fun when it’s part of a social activity.