The benefits of walking can be tremendous, especially if you are sedentary. Baby boomers like myself may not be as active as we once were. We can make excuses like a lack of time, the weather is bad, or you just don’t feel like it.
The results are the same.
You aren’t moving enough.
You don’t have to join a gym or buy equipment or fancy clothes. When you are 60+ and out walking no one really cares what you are wearing.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, over the past 20 years the number of people who walk on a regular basis has dropped by 42%. During that same time frame obesity has increased by 40%.
Number one benefit of walking
Each of us are motivated by different things, so the number one benefit of walking for me may not be the same for you. For some their motivation is to lose weight. Others may want to reduce the risk of disease like diabetes, cancer or heart ailments. Your desire to walk may be so you can enjoy time with your grandchildren.
Regardless of your reason, pick some area of your life where you want to improve and make that your primary goal.
Healthy people spend less money on medication and trips to the doctor. Some medical conditions like type II diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can be reversed with regular exercise, including the simple act of walking on a daily basis.
Saving money is always good, especially for those on a fixed income. We save our clients an average of $450 per year in Medigap premiums and another $1,000 in out of pocket drug costs.
That adds up!
I am a baby boomer. Born in 1950. Twenty years ago when our son was pursuing his Eagle Scout award we went hiking and camping a lot.
Frankly, outdoor camping never appealed to me. My idea of roughing it was staying in a Day’s Inn. A meal cooked over a campfire was a hot dog on a stick followed by roasted marshmallows for desert.
Once he graduated from scouting neither one of us went camping or hiking again.
I gained about 15 pounds since that time.
OK, maybe it was more like 25.
For a 64 year old man I am in reasonably good health. I don’t take any medication. My BP is slightly elevated but my cholesterol is less than 150.
Last year during my annual the doctor measured my waist. Obviously she used a metric tape because my waist has never been that big. My BP was up a bit but not enough to warrant medication.
The killer was when she wrote “obesity” in my chart.
I decided then to change my lifestyle. Kohl’s had a sale on walking (and running) shoes so I bought two pair.
A few months before my physical I had a kidney stone. The ER doc that treated me said I didn’t drink enough water.
So now I am drinking more water daily and walking. My goal is to walk 4 miles a day for 5 days.
Most weeks I do that.
A few months ago I had another physical. My weight was down by 8 pounds and my BP dropped to a more acceptable 128/86.
Walking reduces stress
Having spent 40 years in the health insurance business, I needed to slow down a bit and find something less stressful. Most of my regular health insurance clients had to drop their coverage because they could not afford the higher Obamacare rates. To offset the lost income I migrated toward the Medicare market about 4 years ago. In September of this year when it is my time to join my other boomer’s and go on Medicare I needed to know what to expect.
What I have found is, most people my age were just as confused as I was and they hadn’t worked in the health insurance market all their life like I had.
Changing my focus to Medicare only has helped, but during the Medicare season known as annual enrollment was almost too much. I was winding down my existing under age 65 client block and helping them one last time while at the same time trying to increase my number of Medicare clients.
Getting out an walking for 75 minutes or so helped my attitude tremendously. Some days I would leave the house at 5:30 AM while others it would be noon. And some days I would begin my walk around 4:00 PM.
Walking that 4 mile loop around my neighborhood not only reduced my stress levels but helped to drop my BP as well.
A recent article published by Everybody Walk has this to say.
- Put your brain in a meditative state
- Outdoor activity reduces stress
- Boost endorphins
- Socialize while walking
- Boost energy and reduce fatigue
Hard to argue with any of those.
Reverse medical conditions
Many afflictions are lifestyle related. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety and type II diabetes are all conditions that may be caused by lifestyle but can also be reversed.
My own drop in BP can be tied to walking and increased water intake.
According to the American Heart Association, walking for 30 minutes a day has this effect
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
- Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Improve blood lipid profile
- Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
- Enhance mental well being
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
Maybe you are not at risk for any of the above and that is good news. But that is not a reason to ignore the health benefits of preventing or even reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Type II diabetes is a common chronic condition in retirees and is a costly illness to treat, especially if you have complications. I have diabetic clients and some of them are spending $500/month and up on medication. What a tremendous savings they could realize by walking just 30 minutes a day.
As we age our body changes and one area that is impacted as much, if not more, is quality sleep time. Walking, especially in the evening before bed can relax your body and help you have a more restful night.
You can also benefit from walking earlier in the day so if night time is not convenient for you go when you can and start sleeping better.
Laundry list of benefits
If you do enough research you can probably come up with 100 or more reasons to walk. The folks at Tesco Living summarized these 10 points.
- Strengthen your heart
- Lower risk of disease
- Weight control
- Prevent dementia
- and osteoporosis
- Tones your body
- including your arms
- Boosts vitamin D levels
- Gives you energy
- Makes you happy
Who doesn’t want to be happy?
Still not convinced of the benefits of Walking?
Check out these dozen+ articles on Medicinenet
Get moving and enjoy your days. Walk outdoors or inside. Many malls open early in the morning for “mall walkers”. It’s a good time to socialize and avoid the crowds.
Senior centers in many areas are available at no charge or reduced rates. Some have walking tracks, swimming pools and exercise classes.
A few Medicare supplement carriers include Silver Sneakers membership as part of their “package”. Georgia carriers that include Silver Sneakers are Blue Cross, Humana and the AARP brand of United Healthcare.
Of course their Medigap rates are usually higher than comparable plans that don’t include Silver Sneakers. We recently added Aetna to our mix of carriers. They have competitive Medigap rates but don’t have Silver Sneakers.
With more than 170 different Medigap plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one? We can help. Shop and compare plans on your own but don’t hesitate to ask for help.
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