Top 5 Benefits of Walking Groups

Megan Ray  |  June 15, 2015

Getting a few friends together in your retirement community to go for a walk may be more beneficial than you think. One recent analysis, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that walking groups may contribute to senior health, without any detrimental effects.

In all 42 of the studies the analysts examined the health effects of walking groups over time. Many of the participants, who were from all over the world, had several health issues at the beginning of the study, including dementia, arthritis, and diabetes. At the end of the study, all of the participants had experienced some sort of benefit, including a lower heart rate, cholesterol level or weight loss. The study authors are hopeful that physicians will encourage older adults to begin walking regularly.

Consider these benefits of joining a walking group:

1. It isn't limiting
There are many different types of exercises out there recommended for seniors, including yoga, Pilates, cycling and even running. However, some of these activities may require seniors to take a class that costs money or may lead to accidental injury if the class is too complex. Walking isn't like that. It's incredibly simple and and it doesn't cost money, American Trails noted. You also can do it with as many friends as you want, and get a little fresh air while you're doing it. Going for a stroll also allows you to be active and has many health benefits, such as increasing mobility.

2. It gets you on your feet
We live in a world of convenience, with nearly everything being easily accessible. As a result, the U.S. population is becoming increasingly sedentary. People will sit while getting to work, at their job, when watching television, during dinner and so on. This is taking a toll on people's health in various aspects, from weight gain to an increased risk of developing different types of diseases. However, a little walking can change all that. Taking 35 minutes out of your day to walk may improve your cardiovascular health, weight, blood pressure and more. One study from San Diego State University compared two groups of men: one group exercised regularly, the other only exercised for five years and then stopped. The researchers discovered that the men who regularly walked had much lower blood pressure and had more power to perform aerobics. 

3. It improves your balance
Sure, there are a few exercises seniors can try that can enhance balancing skills, Seniors Live It Up noted. However, walking is one of the easiest ways. It strengthens muscles in the legs, back and abdomen, all of which are used to help a person keep steady, Spine-health stated.

4. It keeps you independent
As people age, they may lose muscle and bone mass, causing them to be reliant on walking aids, such as a cane. However, walking may help prevent this. In 2014, the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders Trial divided participants - all who were in meager shape - into two groups. One of the groups adopted an exercise regimen of walking every day. The trial went on for more than two years. At the end of it, those in the physically active group were 28 percent less likely to become disabled or dependent on others to help them walk. Those in walking groups may have an easier time doing daily tasks, such as walking up the stairs, on their own. 

5. It makes you happy
Several pieces of research have proven that people who are regularly physically active may actually be happier than those who aren't, the researchers from the BJSM noted. This may be for a series of reasons. When you walk, you may do it with a friend, which encourages being social and reaching out to others in your senior communities. It also means you may have some independence from your family members, as you have a life outside of them. People who don't regularly exercise may be more emotionally and physically reliant on caregivers, which can lead to feelings of depression or loneliness.

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