Skip to main content

Safety concerns may be preventing seniors from going for walks

June 13, 2013

Staying physically active is one of the most critical aspects of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Whether older adults are swimming, practicing yoga or cycling, any amount of regular exercise can stave off a wide variety of common illness and other health issues. Walking is among the easiest activities for older adults, but a recent study out of the University of Washington found that many seniors who have a physical disability encounter obstacles when they want to walk around the neighborhood. 

Safety a concern
The study's findings, which were published in The Gerontologist, are based on interviews with older adults who had disabilities that affected their mobility. The questions touched on issues surrounding their ability to walk around their neighborhood and whether they believed they could do so safely. Researchers found that the chief concerns among respondents included issues such as poorly lit sidewalks, a lack of public transportation and sidewalks that have fallen into disrepair.

Seniors should speak out
Experts hope their results will encourage seniors to reach out to their local government officials if they have any concerns surrounding the safety of their neighborhood. After all, many of these issues are easy to fix, and the benefits of walking regularly are significant. If seniors lack outlets for physical activity, it can have a serious impact on healthy aging

"People who are inactive in general have a higher incidence of chronic disease such as stroke, heart disease, arthritis," said Basia Belza, once of the study leaders. "Regular engagement in physical activities leads to better health outcomes, including improved mobility, weight loss and fewer falls. This is especially important in older adults who may already be dealing with health challenges."

A  little can go a long way
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 65 and older get about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, and while it's certainly a good idea to follow those guidelines, any amount of exercise can have a significant payoff. In fact, a recent study from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services said a 15-minute walk after each meal can substantially reduce a senior's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.