8 Safety Tips for Seniors Who Take Walks for Exercise

Walking is regarded by wellness experts as an ideal form of low-impact exercise for people aged 60 and older. Physical and mental benefits are realized through regular walking. As is the case with many things in life, walking for exercise is not without some risks. With that noted, there are ways in which risks associated with walking can be minimized for seniors who enjoy this type of exercise. We discuss seven specific safety tips that should be adopted by men and women 60 and over who walk out of doors for health and wellness. (The fact is that everyone who walks for exercise should pay attention to these tips.)

The eight safety recommendations we discuss for seniors in this article are:

  • Follow even surfaces
  • Stay on paved pathways
  • Always use crosswalks
  • Do not rush
  • Keep alert
  • Stay in well-lit areas at night
  • Let someone know when you’re on a walk
  • Walk with a friend

Follow Even Surfaces

When out for a walk, many people have an understandable inclination to go off a smoother course into a park or other area that does not feature even surfaces. For most older people walking alone, this is not a recommended course. This can be more acceptable in a situation in which a senior is part of a walking or hiking group led by an experienced hiker or individual with a similar background.

When you are walking alone for wellness and exercise, there simply is no need to divert away from even surfaces. By doing so, you significantly and unnecessarily increase your risk of injury.

Stay on Paved Pathways

On a related note, when at all possible, stay on paved pathways. Typically, that means walking on a sidewalk. It is not advisable to walk in the street with the intention of being completely aware of approaching vehicles at all times in order to get out of their pathway when a car approaches.

You can be focused when you plot your walking routes. In other words, you can select walking routes that include sidewalks along the way. You can identify different pathways that include sidewalks so that you can enjoy some variety when you take wellness walks.

Always Use Crosswalks

If you are a grandparent, you likely echo to your grandchildren what you told your own kids multiple times in years gone by:

Always use crosswalks.

You need to take to heart this admonition that you undoubtedly have shared with others in the past. When it comes to crossing the street, always do so at a crosswalk. Never cross in the middle of a street. Never pop up into the street from behind a parked vehicle.

The California Pathways program underscores the importance of using crosswalks by sharing this important information:

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (in a typical year), 42 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on roads without proper crosswalks.  Additionally, another 21 percent occurred in roadways in which a crosswalk was available, but the pedestrian wasn’t using it.  All in all, pedestrian deaths that occurred on an actual crosswalk accounted for less than 9 percent of all fatalities.  These could be because the pedestrians failed to look both ways, or they walked before the signals indicated they could do so.  Whatever the reason, statistics show that by using a crosswalk and enforcing crosswalk safety, a pedestrian can expect a much safer and hazard-free experience.

Do Not Rush

You can enhance your health and well-being by taking regular walks throughout the course of the week, and moving at a moderate pace. You do not need to rush your walk. By unnecessarily speeding up, you increase the risk of injury. Specifically, you notably heighten the risk of stumbling, falling, and sustaining injury.

Keep Alert

When walking, you need to keep alert to what is happening around you. This is important for a number of reasons, including being as aware as possible of people near or approaching you. Maintaining an appropriately sharp focus on what is going on around also aids you in being aware of dogs or other animals that might be out and about and near you as well.

Stay In Well-Lit Areas at Night

If you do feel the night to take a walk at night, you need to stay in well-lit areas. Night walking really does necessitate walking with someone else to optimize your personal safety. Having said this, in the grand scheme of things, there really are no real benefits to be realized by walking at night. In the final analysis, seniors should give serious consideration to doing wellness walks during daylight hours.

Let Someone Know When You’re on a Walk

When you are walking alone, thanks to 21st-century technology you do not need to be completely alone. You can have a virtual walking pal who is aware of what you are doing and where you are doing it.

Before you embark on a wellness walk, map out your course. Determine the route you will be taking, when you will be leaving for your walk, and your estimated time of return. When you have worked this out, call or text your virtual walking pal and let that person know you are leaving for a walk. Provide that individual with the details we just discussed of your wellness walk.

Set a time at which you will check in with your virtual walking pal. For example, if you plan to take a 30-minute walk, select a call-in time at about the midpoint or at 15 minutes. You will also want to notify your virtual walking supporter when you finish your walk and are back safely at home.

In some people’s minds, this might sound like overkill in the safety arena. Nonetheless, better to overkill than suffer an injury or some other negative incident and no one knowing of your situation in a timely manner. With a structure like we just outlined, your virtual walking pal will know of a potential problem if that person does not receive your walk update. Your virtual pal will also know where you are going and the time you will be walking in that area. This can be invaluable if emergency assistance ever needs to be dispatched to you.

Walk With a Friend

Many people do like time alone, something that can be provided when out for a leisurely wellness walk. There are safety benefits that can be realized by walking with a friend. Perhaps you want to consider walking on your own on certain occasions and walking with someone else on others.

One of the primary safety benefits of walking with someone else is that if one of you is injured (stumbles and falls, for example), there will be a person at your side in this time of need. A fellow walker with you will be able to ensure that emergency assistance is obtained and provided immediately.

Another well-being issue that can be addressed by walking with at least one other person is exemplified by the old adage “there is safety in numbers.” As mentioned previously, unfortunately, older individuals are more vulnerable to becoming victims of crime. There is evidence to suggest that when older women and men walk with someone else, they do lower the risk that they will be targeted by a predator of some sort when out and about.

By taking advantage of the tips and tactics shared with you in this article, you will be able to develop a walking-based exercise regimen that enhances your overall health and well-being and optimizes your safety in the process.