Busier Is Better for Seniors: Errand Running and Enhanced Physical Activity

Harvard Medical School reports on a new study outlined in Geriatric Nursing that involved monitoring the lives of 133 seniors with an average age of 73. Two-thirds of the study participants were women. The research was designed to analyze how activities like errand running undertaken by seniors regularly enhanced their overall level of physical activity. In this article, we review the results of this research study and the benefits to seniors of maintaining an active life.

In this article, we take on several specific matters associated with errand running, enhanced physical activity, and improved health for people in their Golden Years:

  • Raw data about running errands and enhanced physical activity
  • How many steps should a senior walk daily?
  • Benefits of walking for seniors
  • How to Stay Motivated to Walk

Raw Data About Running Errands and Enhanced Physical Activity

The research study presented by Harvard Medical School and published in the September-October 2022 issue of Geriatric Nursing tracked participants over 14 days using GPS sensors and accelerometers. The participants in the research study visited an average of 2.5 places each day. These research participants spent an average of 3.5 hours outside their homes, running errands and similar activities. Each different place visited by study participants equated to an additional average of 1,324 steps taken that day.

More than 90 percent of people in the study drove a car daily. The use of a motor vehicle increased the number of destinations visited. According to researchers, it also likely led to increased physical activity. Researchers ultimately concluded that their study’s results suggest that the number of places a senior (or anyone else) goes each day is a potentially important contributor to healthier habits.

How Many Steps Should a Senior Walk Daily?

The National Institutes of Health states that healthy seniors should walk between 7,000 and 10,000 steps daily. That average is three to three and a half miles a day. Experts at the National Institutes of Health also recommend that seniors strive for several continuous bouts of walking. This should equate to at least ten minutes at a time.

Some seniors have mobility issues that impact how much walking they can do in a day. As noted, the recommendation made a moment ago was for generally healthy senior men and women. If seniors have a chronic condition that limits their ability to walk comfortably, the National Institutes of Health recommends that they aim to walk only about 5,500 steps each day or an average of two miles. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about ways to make this goal more achievable for you if you suffer from some condition that does limit mobility.

Benefits of Walking for Seniors

Seniors can realize some important benefits if they walk in the manner recommended by the National Institutes of Health and explained a moment ago. These include:

  • Better physical health
  • Reduced pain from arthritis
  • Healthier blood sugar levels
  • Weight control
  • Improved emotional and mental health

We take a few moments to learn about these potential benefits that can be realized by including a decent amount of walking in your daily routines.

Better Physical Health

Much research has been undertaken regarding the health benefits of walking. This research reveals that regular cardio workouts can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, walking has the propensity to lessen the risk for:

  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

Reduced Pain From Arthritis

Walking is useful in reducing pain associated with arthritis in some cases. Walking helps to build muscles. Enhanced muscles take the stress off joints. Walking can also help you rebuild cartilage, softening the impact on sore joints.

Healthier Blood Sugar Levels

A short walk directly after a meal can diminish the expected blood sugar spike. This is accomplished because exercise directs your body to use sugar to strengthen muscles.

Weight Control

Walking helps you burn calories. Walking also lessens cravings for sugary foods for many men and women. In addition, each pound a person loses removes significant pressure on joints, which is also beneficial.

Improved Emotional and Mental Health

Walking releases endorphins into a person’s system. The endorphins that come from this type of physical activity can alleviate symptoms of depression. They can also work to lessen or eliminate feelings of fatigue.

How to Stay Motivated to Walk

Like many people, you have issues staying motivated when walking more regularly and maintaining a good diet. There are some strategies you can use as a means to stay motivated to walk. These include:

  • Set realistic goals
  • Use the buddy system
  • Add Variety

Set Realistic Goals

If you haven’t walked much before, don’t try to jump to the step goal mentioned by the National Institutes of Health from day one. Ease into the process. Set realistic and achievable goals. Celebrating smaller achievements along the way will inspire you to keep going.

Use the Buddy System

Walking with a friend can help you enjoy the process even more. If your friend is also working toward a fitness goal, you can hold each other accountable and encourage each other along the way.

Add Variety

Take your walks in different settings. For example, walks in parks, senior living neighborhoods, and shopping malls are good locations. Give yourself something to spark more interest in your workout. Adding variety to a walking regimen is one of the reasons why running errands is a way in which a senior really can increase the number of steps that he or she takes during any given day.

Before embarking on a more ambitious walking routine, visit your primary care physician to confirm that your health is suitable for more exertion. Your doctor may also have tips about exercise and walking that may be useful to you.