Senior Citizens: Walking is living for elders

Senior Citizens: Walking is living for elders

Walking should be made a habit; it is ideal for a long and healthy life

Dr A K Sen GuptaUpdated: Saturday, March 18, 2023, 04:13 PM IST
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Keeping physically fit and agile is the first motto of a senior citizen. This is important as a healthy mind can thrive only on a robust body. To keep physically fit, various exercises have been prescribed for elderly. These include water aerobics, stretching exercises, yoga, pilates, swimming, body weight / band resistance workouts, amidst others.

While all these are good to keep the body fit, some of them may be strenuous and may require guidance or a specified place. Further, some of these movements might be counter-productive beyond certain age say, 70 years or some specific categories of elders. Therefore, there has always been a search for universally accepted mode of exercise particularly for elderly.

Walking as a Universal Exercise:

Walking is often prescribed for all senior citizens as an alternate to many other modes of exercises. Research shows that walking on a consistent basis has been able to control diseases like blood pressure & other heart ailments, obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and even dementia.

People who are in the habit of constant walking have less tendency to fall, a most dreaded case of disaster for many seniors. Walking in a serene climate often relaxes mind and brings peace to soul. It also helps in controlling depression.

Therefore, considering the benefits, walking has been recommended as the best means of exercise for elderly to keep both body and mind fit and agile.

Brisk walking: The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity brisk walking in a week. Assuming 5 days in a week, it translates into 30 minutes of brisk walk every day.

Brisk walking is classically defined as 100 steps in a minute. This means 30 minutes of brisk walk will cover around 3,000 steps of walk. It can be a continuous 30 minutes of walk at a stretch or may be divided in phases over the day.

It may, however, not be possible for many seniors to do brisk walking at pace mentioned above and that too for 30 minutes at a stretch. While an elderly person can try to attempt brisk walking if health permits, he / she should definitely endeavour to walk as much as possible on a daily basis. The essence of speed may be kept in mind.

Achieving 10,000 (ten thousand steps a day): This is the other classical formula of walking and linking it to physical and mental benefit. Studies have shown that 10,000 steps per day are perfect and denote magical number that is linked to an ideal physical and mental condition.

It may be difficult to achieve target of 10,000 steps a day particularly for an elderly person. Idea is to set a benchmark and see that we walk as much as possible. Many of the tasks can be done through or preceded / succeeded by walking.

Some pointers in this regard include:

a. We can make it a habit of taking a brisk walking of at least of 15 to 30 minutes a day. That will cover around 1,500 to 3,000 steps. This is considered adequate for an elder above 65 to 70 years.

b. If our place of stay is at 1st or 2nd floor, we can walk up rather than taking an elevator.

c. We can try to walk while seeing the TV news / serials.

d. We should make it a habit of walking ourselves to fetch tea / coffee from kitchen rather than asking someone to get it.

e. We should always stand and walk a bit after 20 to 30 minutes of working in seating position.

f. It is always better to take a stroll after lunch or dinner as it also helps in digestion.

g. We should make conscious efforts to walk as much as possible.

h. Walking in groups is always preferred as it helps to keep up the mood while walking.

Senior should try to be members of walking clubs.

Need for Balanced Approach:

We need balanced approach in all aspects of life. This is true for a daily routine activity like walking as well. This is truer for elders. We must avoid 'over walking': an act of walking beyond our physical capacity or stretching too far. This may result in muscle or ligament pull which becomes extremely difficult to heal at an advanced age.

Similarly, elders ought to be careful about the road or track on which they walk. They should avoid the tracks that have some obstacles, etc. that might lead to fall while walking.

At the same time, too much of caution is also not good. We see many cases of elders withdrawing from walking totally because of 'fear of fall'. Elders must have the psychological confidence and mental resolve before taking up walking as an exercise.

Conclusion:

Walking is a low cost, equipment free but high calorie burning exercise. As elders, walking should be regarded as 'must exercise' as other aerobics might need specialized place or equipment or guidance. Other than walking at brisk pace during the strolling time, we should also make movement as a part of daily routine so that it is ingrained in our mind. Walking should be made a habit; it is ideal for a long and healthy life. Let us walk as much as we can without overdoing it. Let us remember that walking is living.

(By Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at aksengupta51@gmail.com or 9821128103.)

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