The “Sunshine Walking Group” is a regularly scheduled activity that is part of The Bridges Assisted Living community’s newly implemented “Your Bridge to Wellness” program. Several times a week, assisted living residents gather in the first-floor lobby as they eagerly await the start of the group walk led by Gary Lenza, the wellness program coordinator. Residents begin single file or side-by-side and walk at a pace that is comfortable for them. Gary encourages our seniors to take short breaks and drink water to remain hydrated. So, why do these folks who are 65 years of age and older commit to a walking group? They realize that the benefits of walking on a regular basis will positively affect their overall health.
If you want to stay healthy and mobile well into old age, start walking today—even if you’ve already edged into “old age.” That’s the conclusion of a report from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The trial included more than 1,600 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89. None exercised regularly, and all were relatively frail. Half were randomly assigned to an exercise program that included daily walking plus strength and balance exercises. The other half took part in education workshops on healthy aging that included some gentle stretching routines.
After 2½ years, the volunteers in the exercise group were 28% less likely to have become disabled (defined by the inability to walk about 400 yards without help) compared to those in the education group. They were also 18% less likely to have had an episode of physical disability.
The improvements, while promising, probably don’t capture the real benefit of exercise. That’s because some of the people in the workshops, who learned how exercise can lead to healthier aging, became more physically active on their own. If none of the workshop and stretch people exercised, the results of the structured program would have been more impressive. For more information about this study, visit http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/walking-exercise-helps-seniors-stay-mobile-independent-201405287173