Simply putting one foot in front of the other (repeatedly!) can both reduce your chances of acquiring a physical disability—and thus help maintain your independence—and speed recovery from a disability, according to the most recent issue of the medical journal of the American College of Physicians.
Discussed in an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a study out of Yale University showed that even after seniors had been through disability–inducing health issues, walking had a very positive effective on their long-term health.
The study involved 1,635 sedentary people who had limitations but were able to walk 400 metres. Ranging in age from 70 to 89 years, participants were considered high-risk because of various chronic health issues that included diabetes and heart disease. Participants were enrolled in a structured walking program and monitored for an average of 2.7 years.
At the end of the study period, the walking program was found to have helped in a number of ways. First, it reduced the amount of time seniors were affected by their mobility problems by 25%. It also made them less likely to suffer from another condition that might affect their mobility, and if they did, they would recover more quickly from that incident, too.
Even if you are someone likely to be described as sedentary, it’s never too late to make a change: all the participants in this study were at least 70 years old. Don’t know where to start? The Canadian Diabetes Association has a walking program on its website, as does the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
There are also walking programs put on by many municipalities and even in malls, so don’t let the cold be an excuse not to get out there and start improving your health. Grab a walking partner to make it more fun and to help turn a daily walk into an active part of your social life.