Active Aging Presented by Public Health Seattle-King County
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week to maintain optimal health—and walking is a wonderful way to rack up those minutes!
While many exercises require specialized equipment, memberships, or peak physical conditioning, walking is a low-impact activity that’s accessible to everyone. Walking not only increases your heart rate for aerobic activity, but it can also improve joint health and muscle strength—two key components to staying fit as you age. Mental benefits, including improved focus and boosted mood, are an added bonus.
Whether you’re walking during a focused exercise routine or combining some mileage with other activities, here are five ways to make reaching your daily step count fruitful and fun!
Mall walking is a popular option for a reason. It’s the perfect way to get in your step count in relative comfort and safety. According to the Mall Walking guide (sponsored in part by the CDC Healthy Aging Research Network), mall walking can address many physical barriers to walking because it’s “free, relatively accessible, and pedestrian-friendly.” Walking inside means you don’t have to worry about the weather, so no need to bundle up or put on sunscreen! Active seniors with any movement restrictions can easily walk with aids like canes and walkers in a mall—the ground is smooth, and the paths are wide. As a bonus, malls have public restrooms and water fountains, so seniors who need easy access to facilities can take advantage of this setup. If you’d like to walk with a group, search to see if one already exists in your area! If not, consider starting your own—the guide has great tips for setting something up in your community.
If external motivation helps you keep on top of your exercise, try using a walking app to keep track of your movement. Sometimes seeing our progress can be the best motivation to continue moving forward! Available for your phone, tablet, or computer, these walking programs can provide simple step counters and music to accompany your stride, plus fun challenge goals and ideas for interval training through walking. MapMyWalk can track your route and mileage whether you walk indoors or outside. If you walk on treadmills or in your home, try using Walk the Distance—you can follow paths around the world as you walk, all the while discovering facts about the area and viewing incredible scenery.
Walking for exercise is an excellent way to stay healthy, but your walks don’t have to be solely focused on working up a sweat. Keep your walks interesting by combining some of your daily steps with activities that are meaningful to you, like volunteering. Sign up for volunteer opportunities that require a lot of movement, like walking dogs for those who work full-time or helping to pick up trash in city parks. (Pro tip: use a grabber pole so that you don’t have to bend over to collect the trash!) At the end of the day, you’ll feel accomplished for two reasons: You’ve met your step goal and contributed to your community. If you want to branch out beyond your neighborhood, try an app like Charity Miles; the program will donate to a charity of your choice as you meet your fitness goals.
Walking in modern-day America is often tricky. Many communities are spread out and don’t offer easily walkable paths and commercial districts. America Walks is one of the leading organizations working towards creating more walkable communities and offers a directory of groups in your area that are committed to encouraging walking and movement—so, check to see how you can connect with these organizations! If you don’t have an easily walkable community, you can still take advantage of the concept by centralizing your weekly errands and trying to complete as many as possible by walking. For instance, you might scope out a community nearby that has a coffee shop, grocery store, and bank all within a one-mile radius. Once a week, drive to that community, park centrally, and use the rest of your day to “run” your errands by walking!
One of the best ways to make walking fun is to go with a friend or two! Socializing while walking can make the time go by faster and can increase your endorphins through companionship. If you don’t have friends locally to walk with, plan instead to have a phone chat with a long-distance pal as you each walk! It’s a great way to catch up and stay healthy every week.
Try these creative ways to make walking more fun—you’ll reach your daily step count in no time!
Active Aging is presented by Public Health- Seattle & King County. Public Health- Seattle & King County recognizes the important and untold stories of innovation, service, and sacrifice by the Black community and supports efforts to improve equity and achieve social justice. We want everyone to get health insurance and access health care. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/health for health insurance, flu and COVID-19 testing locations.