older couple walking

How Does Walking Protect Seniors’ Heart Health?

The Research Behind This Simple Way for Older Adults to Stay Healthy

Any form of exercise, including walking, has benefits for your heart, but many people don’t realize just how significant those benefits of such a simple activity are.

Nearly every credible medical organization, like the American Heart Association and Harvard Medical School, can offer statistics about the undeniable value of getting your steps in.

Here are a few key statistics:

  • Harvard Medical School’s Walking for Health literature states that 21 minutes of walking per day reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%.
  • In a study of older adults, the American Heart Association discovered that only 3.5% of participants had a cardiovascular event if they took at least 4,500 steps a day.

This is great news for us all, but particularly for seniors, who are more likely to experience heart-related conditions. In fact, the American Heart Association stresses that if an older adult isn’t able to meet the benchmarks explained above, any movement still matters and provides major benefits. The AHA also explains that adults over 70 who added even 500 more steps to their normal daily routine had a 77% lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart failure.

Families can offer a simple way for their loved one to get exercise. Those who don’t like exercise might be more inclined to give it a try. Seniors can get the movement they need without a complicated exercise routine.

Why Walking Works for Senior Heart Health

While the statistics surrounding a good walk are astounding – and are likely the reason you see more and more older adults taking walks – this doesn’t explain why walking is so beneficial.

When it comes to walking and heart health, hitting the target amount of exercise can be easy. Because walking has the same benefits as running for lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risk, seniors can take a low-impact approach and simply walk vigorously, at 2 to 3 miles per hour.

It is well documented that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the development of type 2 diabetes are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, alongside physical inactivity, a poor diet, smoking, and second-hand smoke. Therefore, when seniors walk, they are limiting more than half of the major causes of a heart-related illness or preventing worsening symptoms.

How to Develop a Heart Healthy Walking Routine

Many older adults appreciate a consistent routine, especially when they’re spending more time at home and have difficulty getting out as much as they used to. Consider helping your loved one by suggesting a scheduled time for walks, perhaps in the morning or the late afternoon. Gently propose they put this on their calendar; or, if you help them schedule their day, make time for them to get out for a walk a couple of times a day.

You can even join them. A family caregiver, a friend, pet, or a private duty caregiver can serve as a walking partner for companionship or even as a support, if you’re worried about falls. Friendship and fresh air will make a big difference in the life of an older adult.

It might also be fun to mix up these daily walks by inviting other family members along. A walk is always more enjoyable with a wonder-filled grandchild or a member of the family who simply wants some time to visit and would like to offer occasional help. The point is to develop a routine that your loved one finds enjoyable, especially if they need some encouragement to get out and move.

Heart Healthy Suggestions for Those with Limited Leg Mobility

Not all older adults are able to get out and walk for the health benefits. In cases like this, there are many other exercise-related recommendations, depending on your loved one’s mobility. The idea is to increase your heart rate and get your blood circulation moving any way you can.

A family member, friend, or a physical therapist from a Kansas or Missouri home health care agency can also suggest the following solutions for adults with limited mobility:

  • Older adults who regularly use a wheelchair can perform aerobic exercises right in their chair.
  • Some seniors may prefer flexibility exercises, and others may want to focus on their upper body strength, if their lower body doesn’t allow for a regular walking routine.
  • Others may feel more stable in a guided water aerobics class for seniors.
  • Those with highly significant immobility can still practice heart-healthy eating, which primarily consists of a low-sodium, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, like chicken or fish.

No matter what plan your loved one follows, the idea is to get moving and take actions that support heart health. Although this may seem rudimentary, these choices can affect one’s sense of wellbeing, provide relief from discomfort, and – for some – encourage healing. Living healthfully doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. The common denominator, however, is being consistent.

Caregivers Can Also Help Improve Seniors’ Heart Health

A superior healthcare agency may offer a service where a caregiver helps your loved one get outside for a walk. For example, the agency may recommend private duty care. When you elect this service, a private caregiver dedicated to your family member will compassionately and thoughtfully assist your loved one with many tasks and needs, including scheduled exercise time.

Private duty care services also include:

  • Basic housekeeping
  • Meal planning, preparation, and serving
  • Transportation for outings, social activities, medical appointments, and errands
  • Pet care
  • And much more

Essentially, private duty care is all about ensuring the best quality of life for your loved one, and that can include movement for heart health and all the other benefits that exercise provides.
When an older adult reaps the benefits of an exercise routine, no matter the length of time or intensity, they can increase feelings of independence and wellbeing.

After all, whether you are caring directly for your loved one or choosing private duty care services, you want your family member to experience this phase of life as fully as possible – and a good walk can prove to be just what the doctor ordered.

Learn more about the impact of private duty care when you work with a leading Kansas or Missouri home healthcare agency.

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