Each day I ask my patients to walk and do other activities to stay strong, balanced, and flexible. It’s great to know that these recommendations have been confirmed by a new, landmark study conducted through the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging. It showed that moderate physical activity improves the independence and mobility of older adults. The study included 1635 sedentary men and women aged 70-89. Half the group walked 150 hours per week and performed strength, balance, and flexibility exercises. The other half received health education and did stretching. Moderate physical activity helped older adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise. It also decreased disability with the largest gains for those who were most sedentary.

Our “In Balance Fall Prevention Program” was started to improve the mobility and balance of our older patients as 1 out of 3 are at risk for falling each year. Although there are multiple reasons for fall risk, one of the best ways to reduce that risk is through exercise. The study had older adults walking 21 minutes a day. Although that would certainly be ideal, if you’ve been sedentary for a long time or have other physical problems, I’d recommend going to your physician before setting out on any new course of exercise.

Forming a New Habit

  • It takes 21 days to form a new habit. It’s important to start off slowing but consistently. It’s better to walk for 5 minutes every day for the first 21 days than to walk more than you can physically handle; you’re much more likely to maintain the habit at a slow pace.
  • Find a walking buddy. Walking with a friend is good company and will keep you accountable.
  • Purchase good walking shoes. If your feet are uncomfortable you are less likely to keep up the habit.
  • Join a class that also increases your strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga is ideal for this purpose. In Seattle, there are many choices. Choose a class that goes at your pace. Call your local senior center or the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. Two Dog Yoga is a yoga studio in Lake City that provides many Gentle Yoga options.

If you are having trouble walking I’d love to see you in my office so we can figure out how to keep you on your toes. Call us at 206-368-7000.

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