seniors walking togetherv2 webLooking for a low-cost exercise that will strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, reduce weight gain and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes? Then, lace up your sneakers and start walking. “Almost anyone of any age and fitness level can benefit from walking,” said Michael Baba, DO, St. Luke’s Family Practice, Wind Gap.

“It’s one of the best exercises for older adults because it can be performed at low or moderate intensity, is easy on the joints and has a low risk of injury. Even people who walk with a cane or a walker can enjoy a stroll in their neighborhood, park or local mall. Walking is also low cost, which is an added plus for seniors on fixed incomes. All you need is a good pair of shoes.”

One of the biggest benefits of walking is its effect on cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that walking reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol and lowers one’s risk of developing diseases. Also, walking helps to improve circulation, keep joints flexible, reduce arthritic pain and improve balance. It can even reduce anxiety or depression.

Dr. Baba suggests that you talk to your primary care physician about the level of exercise that’s right for you. For those who have been inactive for several years, he recommends that they start out slowly – say five minutes a day – and increase the duration of walks over time.

“Fortunately, we live in an area that has many lovely walking trails,” he said. “The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L) trail system, for example, has many paths throughout the Lehigh Valley with convenient parking areas. The trails are flat and well maintained. Also, Jacobsburg State Park, just off of Route 33, has both easy and more challenging trails.”

This summer, St. Luke’s offers Hikes for Health at Jacobsburg Park. Hikers get exercise while learning about health and fitness outdoors. The program is provided by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network and the Get Your Tail on the Trail program. Get Your Tail on the Trail participants log miles and earn prizes for completing challenges. Visit tailonthetrail.org for more information.

In addition, St. Luke’s hosts Walk with a Doc events at several St. Luke’s campuses and other locations. Events begin with a short educational talk by a doctor followed by a walk at one’s own pace and distance. These events are listed on St. Luke’s website sluhn.org.

To increase your success with walking, Dr. Baba offers these five suggestions:
Recruit a buddy to walk with you. Chances are you’re more likely to stick with a walking program if you have someone to go with.
Start small and increase the length of your walk as you are able. Set a goal of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, however, even a 10-minute walk is beneficial. As you grow stronger increase your pace.
Invest in a good pair of shoes and replace them as needed.
Make it part of your routine. For example, walk first thing in the morning or after dinner – whatever works best for your schedule.
Vary your route to keep it fresh.

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