The ability to walk is too often taken for granted.
But think about how reduced walking ability would affect your life. Think about the loss of mobility, independence and ability to interact with others. It would seriously degrade your quality of life.
Reality! Walking ability declines with age. Not just old age. For most people, the neuromuscular and skeletal decline starts in the late 20’s. While hardly noticed, it progressively slows and declines until the 50’s or 60’s. At this point declines can accelerate and walking can become effortful.
A sedentary lifestyle can take its toll. How? Walking suffers from: reduced muscle mass, balance, bone density and elasticity of ligaments and tendons. That’s what happens to the body, the brain can also lose its ability to co-ordinate movements.
Think you are exempt because you make occasional trips to the gym? Think again! Think about the time you spend sitting or not moving – the time you spend in the car, at work, at home on the sofa.
A slowing of gait, the speed of walking, is often the first indication that things have changed. Slowing can start for a number of reasons, but when it does it begins a cascade of events that impact overall health. A slowed gait is highly predictive of a shorter lifespan.
Now for some good news!
Walking is good physical exercise and provides cognitive and mental health benefits as well. Walking is one of the foundations of Healthy Aging.
So how does one maintain the ability to walk? WALK! Don’t just use walking as way to get from here to there. Get into the habit of walking for pleasure and investment in healthy aging.
You don’t have to walk fast or far at the beginning – build up. Three 10-minute walks have most of the cardiovascular benefits as a 30- minute walk. Longer walks can be enjoyable and beneficial, but build-up.