Walk This Way: Exploring Health Benefits of Walking for Older Adults

For some older adults, walking can lead to health benefits, but this may not be the case for everyone. Some studies are suggesting that higher levels of walking can be detrimental to some older adults. So a group of researchers from the Department of Health & Wellness Design at Indiana University set out to provide insight into how different levels of walking are associated with health benefits for older adults. The researchers differentiated between various intensity levels of leisure walking─light, moderate, and vigorous.

To assess this association, the researchers sampled 4,737 adults over the age of 65 from the 2017 California Health and Interview Survey. All participants were screened for the capacity to engage in leisure walking. Researchers explored the associations of different levels of leisure walking with the mental health and health perceptions of older adults. Leisure walking was evaluated based on the duration and times per week that individual engaged in leisure walking. Researchers found that higher levels of leisure walking led to better health perception and mental health. Specifically, they found that older adults are more likely to have psychological health benefits through participation in moderate and/or vigorous leisure walking than light leisure walking. Researchers believe that this addresses the question of whether leisure walking is beneficial, and which level of leisure walking produces the most rewarding outcomes.

Researchers believe findings like these can lead to very practical implications. Initially, more information needs to be displayed to older adults on the importance of leisure walking, along with helpful resources on how to implement this activity in one’s life. For example, activity professionals can create community-based walking programs, and entice participation by allowing older adults to invite friends and family members, who can also serve as a social support system. Researchers believe community leaders can also design programs to encourage older adults who are currently engaging in moderate leisure walking to increase their levels of intensity to vigorous leisure walking, in order to increase the benefits they stand to receive from the activity.

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Source:

Han, A., Kim, J., & Kim, J. (2021). A Study of Leisure Walking Intensity Levels on Mental Health and Health Perception of Older Adults. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 7, 2333721421999316.

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