If regular exercise can be called a health police then walking is one very simple part of the exercise regimen that can act as a watchdog towards a lot of health issues. And walking is one such activity that anyone can manage to do anytime.

A couple walkingWhile a lot of people, youngsters are taking to walking, one age-group that can particularly benefit from walking is the elderly section. According to a study conducted by University of Georgia, the older generation can reduce their risk of disability and increase their “healthy-enough-to-remain-independent” status by 41 percent if they follow a regular walking programme every week.

“In the past decade, researchers have focused on the benefits of strength training in maintaining independence, but until now we didn’t have good evidence using an objective performance measure that a walking program would improve physical functioning,” said study co-author M. Elaine Cress, professor of kinesiology and researcher in the UGA Institute of Gerontology. “Our study found that walking offers tremendous health benefits that can help older adults stay independent.”

The researchers conducted their study on 26 sexagenarians and older low-income adults who were randomly put into a walking exercise group or nutrition education control group. The walking regimen consisted of walking thrice a week for four months which the adults started by 10 minutes of walking and then progressed to 40 continuous minutes of walking sessions consisting of 10 minutes warm up in the beginning and 10 minutes of cooling down in the end. The session also consisted of balance and flexibility exercises.
It was found that the walking program gave participants 19 percent more peak aerobic capacity and 25 percent more physical function than the ones in control group.

The programme not only had the health benefits. The fact that all the participants stuck through the four-month programme also proves that they very much enjoyed it. “People really enjoyed the program,” said Moore-Harrison, now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. “It gave them an opportunity to make new friends and get to know their neighbors.”

“We know that walking is good for you, but too many people still aren’t doing it,” Moore-Harrison said. “This study shows that just walking on a regular basis can make a huge impact on quality of life.”

Trudy Moore-Harrison, the lead author of the study and a former UGA doctoral student, also explains the selection of individuals from the low-income group. According Moore-Harrison, the people with less financial resources are the ones who suffer the most with never-ending health issues and don’t have much of health coverage. Since walking is the most affordable activity as it does not require any special equipment but a pair of comfortable shoes, it is the most simple and low-cost activity one can follow to remain active.

The study has been published in the current issue of Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy.