Walking, like exercise, is medicine for your body and it is free. Walking can lower blood pressure, heart disease, stroke risk, and diabetes. It also strengthens muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones; burn more calories to keep your weight down; and elevate your mood. The biggest challenge is starting.
If you are not already a walker, start with simply increasing your steps in your home and attempting to maintain good posture and good gait (no shuffling allowed!!) as you walk. Concentrating when you walk as to how you are walking can make a big difference. Make sure your home is safe: no slippery or damaged floors; no curled up edges of carpet and no throw rugs; no clutter where you walk; open pathways; and adequate lighting. Be mindful when you walk, thinking about your posture, gait, and speed. Start slowly and gradually increase your steps by increasing your number of trips. You can use time, distance, or steps as a guide of improvement.
If you are using an assistive device (2-wheeled walker, 4-wheeled walker, or any type of cane or crutch), make sure that the device is adjusted high enough so that you are not stooping forward to “meet” the device. When you start increasing your walk and, especially if you are in pain, use your mind and sight to take your mind away from the pain. Really concentrate on good posture (head up, shoulders back, stomach tight, buttocks tucked in, and legs straight) and look ahead at an object you want to reach. This becomes your baseline of distance. Every second or third day, try to advance to a new distance. Try to repeat your distance 2 to 3 times a day. As you improve, your stride and speed will improve. Taking several smaller walks a day has a better, healthy accumulative value for your body than does one long walk and then nothing.
Once this is easy, or you are already a walker, then with your physician’s approval, map out a route outside of your home. Again, use your mind and sight to continually check your posture, your gait, and to mentally deviate away from pain. Take the first 5 minutes of your walk a little slower to build up your heart function and then increase your stride and speed. Toward the end of your walk, slow down for about 5 minutes to allow your heart to relax. Your first distance is your beginning point and every second to third day add some distance. Your endurance will increase as long as you are consistent with your effort. Even doing a longer walk daily, don’t forget the importance of smaller walks throughout the day. Enjoy the walking and the fact that you feel better after the walk, once you are accustomed to walking. Walking is a precious gift.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site, ptsue.com; my office (951)369-6507; or my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions and/or comments.
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