Aging? – Go for a Walk

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), “one of the most important and fundamental activities affected with degenerative aging is walking. The decreased ability to move freely in one’s environment not only reduces the physical and emotional independence of an individual, it can also lead to an increase in the degenerative cycle.” (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Sixth Edition. Page 422)

The Upper Valley is a beautiful area to walk and hike. I love being outside and walking is one of my favorite outdoor activities, regardless of the season. Walking in my neighborhood, I connect with others in my community. Walking in towns such as Woodstock and Hanover, I see beautiful homes and explore local shops. Walking in the woods or on the Northern Rail Trail, I escape from the stresses of life. Walking is a time for reflection and thought. It is also a great way to spend time with family and friends. Walking is a key component of my physical and mental health.

Working as a personal trainer at UVAC, I see the importance of walking and walking well, especially in our older members. As we age, our balance is affected. Vision decline, inner ear changes and decreases in neural response reduce our ability to interpret and react to our environment. Many people develop arthritis, osteoporosis or spinal degeneration which affect joint movement, muscle balances, and confidence in movement. This can result in poor posture and decreased ease of movement. If we feel anxious or uncomfortable when walking, we won’t want to do it. But if we don’t practice walking and developing this skill, we will lose our ability to do it well.

Practice walking? Yes. Walk around your neighborhood or visit a friend and walk in their neighborhood. Sidewalks are flat, but have curbs, driveways and other obstacles to maneuver. Explore the Northern Rail Trail or Mascoma Greenway. These are beautiful flat paths for walkers to enjoy trees, bridges and the Mascoma River.

Aside from simply walking, it is important to incorporate strength, balance and flexibility training into your daily routine. Strength training (bodyweight or with hand weights) will help you increase muscle strength and stamina. Examples include: squats, hip bridges, prone back extension. Balance training will help you navigate and react to uneven walkways and other obstacles in your path. Examples include: heel/toe walking on a line, single leg balance, side steps. Flexibility training helps your muscles and joints feel more comfortable moving with a complete range of motion. Examples include: leg stretches, trunk rotations and hip rotations, These types of training exercises can be done in both the fitness center and in UVAC’s warm water pool.

Walking more and incorporating strength, balance and flexibility exercises will enable you to feel more confident and comfortable in movement. This will also aid in increased comfort and enjoyment of life’s daily activities.

By Jessica Corbin, UVAC Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Avid Walker

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