Walking is the most popular form of exercise among older adults, and it's a great choice. Walking can strengthen muscles; help prevent weight gain; lower risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis; improve balance; and reduce the likelihood of falling.
The American Geriatric Society Foundation for Health in Aging recommends these steps to walk safely:
¢ Tell your health care provider if you have any pain or problems walking: It's important to be as healthy as possible before you start to walk, but don't let a health problem keep you from getting started. Many people feel better once they start moving.
¢ Plan a walking program with your health care provider: If it's been a long time since you exercised, he or she may recommend walking just one or two blocks at first, then building up slowly to 20 or 30 minutes daily.
¢ Wear the right shoes: Comfortable sneakers work well for most people, but discuss this with your doctor.
¢ Get a walking buddy: Chances are you'll stick with a walking program if you have someone to walk with.
¢ Don't let a cane or walker stop you: They can improve your balance and help take the load off of painful joints.
¢ Aim for the right pace: Try to walk as fast as you can, but not too fast. You should be able to chat with a friend while walking.