Is Regular Walking Good for You? Doctor Advises 4 Points to Note After the Age of 65!

The saying “After meals, take one hundred steps, and you’ll live to ninety-nine” has been widely circulated. Aunt Zhang firmly believes in it, and her happiest moments each day involve taking a stroll with her husband after dinner. She sees it not only as a way to stay fit but also as a delightful means of enjoying their golden years.

While a leisurely stroll used to be their norm, recently, Aunt Zhang’s husband has been urging her to walk faster, claiming that walking slowly is detrimental to health. He mentions studies linking walking speed to cardiovascular diseases. Is Aunt Zhang’s husband correct? How should one walk to stay healthy? Let’s delve into the details.

1. Walking Slowly? Beware, Cardiovascular Diseases May Catch Up with You!

When it comes to elderly people walking, there’s often a tendency to think that they should walk slowly and be cautious. However, a study from New Zealand found that individuals who walk slowly experience more rapid aging in various aspects, including language ability, cardiovascular health, and respiratory systems.

A research team in the UK studied the walking habits of over 420,000 people, excluding factors like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. The results indicated:

  • Especially for seniors, those who walk slowly have a higher risk of developing heart disease, and the risk of death due to heart disease is also significantly increased.

The latest findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study suggest a connection between fast walking speed and a lower risk of hypertension, particularly significant for older individuals dealing with obesity.

This might be because when a person briskly walks, the body requires more oxygen and nutrients to meet the demands of physical activity, making the heart pump more forcefully. Some might worry that this temporary increase in workload could strain the heart, but it actually helps strengthen the heart muscle and enhance cardiac function. Additionally, brisk walking can lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and help prevent the formation of blood clots. Therefore, individuals who engage in brisk walking regularly may have a stronger cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

2. Is Regular Walking Good for You? Research Shows Lower Risk of Death for Those Who Move!

The phrase “Walk for good health” is a common recommendation, but some seniors may avoid walking, fearing potential damage to their legs and bones. In 2022, researchers in the United States published a paper stating that walking is the most effective and straightforward way to maintain physical health. The research data revealed:

  • Just 15 minutes of walking per day can effectively reduce the risk of death by 22%.

In essence, staying active might contribute to longevity compared to prolonged periods of sitting. The benefits include:

  1. Improving Cardiovascular Health:
    Walking, especially brisk walking, is a form of aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart, blood vessels, and lungs, promoting heart health. Regular walking also helps control and adjust blood pressure, with blood vessels expanding during walks, maintaining blood pressure balance to some extent.
  2. Exercising Muscles and Bones:
    Walking not only benefits cardiovascular health but also helps strengthen muscles and bones. Muscles in the lower limbs, such as thighs, calves, and buttocks, work together during walking to support body weight and propel forward motion, enhancing muscle strength and endurance and reducing the risk of fractures.
  3. Promoting Digestion and Increasing Metabolism:
    Walking stimulates mild activity in the digestive organs, accelerating gastrointestinal motility, aiding digestion and absorption, and reducing the likelihood of constipation. Moreover, walking increases metabolic rate, allowing the body to efficiently expend energy.
  4. Enhancing Cognitive Abilities:
    Regular walks promote blood circulation to the brain, supplying more oxygen and nutrients. This helps stimulate the growth of brain cells, improving memory, learning abilities, and cognitive function, which is crucial for seniors. A New Zealand study conducted over 40 years found that walking contributes to improved cognitive function. The walking speed is closely related to the thickness of the brain cortex. Slow walkers not only have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases but also exhibit poorer cognitive abilities, increasing the likelihood of dementia.

A study from the University of California conducted experiments indicating that women over 65 who walk an additional 1865 steps daily can reduce their risk of dementia by 33%. Additionally, engaging in approximately 30 minutes of exercise per day may lower the risk by 21%.

3. To Make Walking Healthy, Pay Attention to These 4 Points!

Many elderly individuals may complain of leg or knee pain after walking, discouraging them from walking and especially from engaging in brisk walking. To make walking healthier, how you walk is crucial. Consider these important points:

  1. Control the Number of Steps to Around 6000 Daily:
    The number of steps in walking is crucial for exercise effectiveness, reflecting the intensity and continuity of physical activity. A Danish study involving older adults found that:
  • Walking around 3800 steps daily reduces the risk of dementia by 25%, while reaching 9800 steps reduces the risk by 51%. However, surpassing 9800 steps doesn’t further reduce the risk. Results suggest that maintaining around 6000 steps daily is the most effective in lowering dementia risk, reducing it by approximately 57%. Similarly, the American Heart Association conducted research among individuals aged 60 and above, revealing that walking around 6000 steps daily significantly reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
  1. Walking Speed Matters:
    Maintaining a certain walking frequency during walks is essential to better exercise cardiovascular function. Moderate brisk walking is more effective for exercise. Generally, if you feel slightly breathless during walking but can still speak normally, it’s the right pace for brisk walking. In a Danish study, walking at a speed of 112 steps per minute reduced the risk of dementia by 62%. However, this might not apply to everyone. Individuals with discomfort or joint injuries should appropriately lower their speed, with a normal walking speed around 1.3 meters per second.
  2. Avoid Walking Barefoot on Stony Paths:
    While some enjoy walking barefoot on stony paths, especially those with cobblestones, for the foot massage effect, it’s not highly recommended for older individuals. Uneven stony paths can lead to injuries, abrasions, or scratches on the soles of the feet, potentially resulting in infections. Furthermore, individuals with flat feet may experience inadequate protection and cushioning for crucial areas of the foot, such as nerves and blood vessels, leading to reduced skin elasticity and potential soft tissue injuries.
  3. Avoid Fast Walking Immediately After Meals:
    While post-dinner walks are beneficial for older individuals, it’s essential not to engage in intense fast walking or other exercises immediately after eating. During meals, blood primarily concentrates in the digestive organs to aid in food breakdown and nutrient absorption. Engaging in vigorous walking or other exercises immediately after meals redistributes blood to muscles and active organs, reducing digestion efficiency and leading to indigestion. It’s recommended to take a moderate break after meals, around 30 minutes to 1 hour, before going for a walk. This allows for smoother digestion and reduces the risk of gastric reflux, bloating, or indigestion.

Doctor’s Conclusion:
Walking is a beneficial activity for older individuals, but certain crucial considerations must be kept in mind.

Firstly, the number of steps should

be appropriate. It is suggested that individuals above 60 years old should strive to walk around 6000 steps daily. Additionally, walking speed is essential. Moderate brisk walking offers better exercise effects, but it should not be excessively intense to protect joint and cardiovascular health. Furthermore, avoiding barefoot walks on stony paths is recommended to protect the soles from injury.

Lastly, after meals, it’s essential to allow a period of rest before engaging in vigorous exercise to promote smooth digestion. Older individuals should enjoy the benefits of walking, maintaining health, improving the quality of life, and ushering in a healthy and vibrant senior life together.

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