Now that the snow is finally behind us for another year, it’s a great time to head outdoors and get moving again. Older adults often see the numbers on the scale creep up during winter months. It’s often because they avoid going outdoors during a Michigan winter for fear of falling on the ice and snow. A less active lifestyle often results in weight gain. Walking has both physical and mental health benefits, as well as the added benefit of helping you safely drop those extra pounds.
Here are a few tips on how to get started with your own walking program.
Tips for Older Adults Beginning a Walking Program
- As with any form of exercise, check with your family physician before starting. Ask for their approval and any advice they can share. They will likely encourage you to begin slowly and build up your endurance.
- Invest in a good pair of walking shoes that support the structure of your foot. Everyone’s foot is shaped a little differently. If you are flat-footed or have a high arch, for example, make sure the shoe is designed to support that. It may be worth a trip to sports store at your local mall to have your foot measured and fitted.
- Set manageable goals for yourself. Unless your physician has indicated otherwise, you might want to start out with a daily 10-minute walk. Add 5 minutes at a time until you are up to about 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Be sure to stretch and warm up your muscles before you head out. This video offers some good pointers on how to warm up before and after walking.
- A pedometer or sports watch that measures heart rate and distance can help you track your progress.
- As your physician may have shared with you, the rule of thumb on how fast to walk is referred to as a “walking pace.” That means you have elevated breathing but can carry on a conversation.
- Watch your posture as you walk. Keep your head up and your shoulders back and relaxed. Your arms should hang comfortably at your sides.
- Find a buddy or two to walk with you. It is safer and more fun!
- If you are walking alone, be sure to bring your cell phone and a photo ID with you and to avoid walking in isolated areas.
After you’ve been walking for a few months, you can reevaluate your success and talk with your physician about increasing the distance or pace of your walking if you feel like you need more of a challenge.