If you are 65 years old it is recommended you walk 30 minutes per day, five days a week.
This is the recommended aerobic exercise amount from the American Academy of Sports Medicine.
If you want to be an overachiever and do the most for your health, it’s been found that people who walk between 10,000 to 16,000 steps per day have the best health and live the longest.
- Aim to walk at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. These can be broken into smaller bouts of walking during the day if you don’t have 30 minutes at one time.
- The healthiest people who live the longest and have the highest quality of life walk an average of 16,000 steps per day.
- The benefits of walking for older adults expand to bone density, muscle mass, heart health, cognitive function, and mental health
- Walking with a friend and in places that are enjoyable is a great way to stay consistent
- Having an all-or-nothing approach is a quick way to lose. It’s best to do what you can and be happy with that.
Benefits of Walking For Seniors and Older Adults
I’ve discussed in detail the benefits of exercise in general in another article, however, I’ll specifically provide the benefits related to walking in this one.
- Higher bone density. As you age, your bone density decreases as part of the natural aging process (great fun, right?). To counteract this we need to do weight-bearing activities. Walking is great for this.
- Better muscle strength. Sedentary adults have much worse body composition with more fat mass and less muscle mass. When you are walking, especially walking at a brisk pace or uphill, you are using your calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to help propel you at this pace. This is a great and easy way to maintain muscle mass.
- Of course, I also recommend resistance training for older adults, too as this is even more effective at maintaining muscle mass.
- Heart health. Getting in your daily amount of physical activity in the form of walking is a great way to keep your heart healthy and make sure your cardiovascular system is staying fine-tuned. Regular aerobic exercise (brisk walking) reduces blood pressure and resting heart rate.
- Brain health. Walking regularly also stimulates better cognition and a clearer head.
- Mental health. Walking also improves mood. If I walk for at least 30 minutes I notice that at minute 27 I forgot what I was anxious about! It’s a great feeling and one that can be compounded with regular exercise.
How far should a 65-year-old walk every day?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, 30 mins per day, 5 days per week.
This is the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control, The American Medical Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Sports Medicine.
Everyone is in agreement.
150 mins of walking per week is recommended as the minimum requirement. Now don’t get all discouraged after reading that; if you get less that’s still better than zero. Literally, anything is better than zero. So, if you’re struggling with being physically active for whatever reason, the goal is to do any amount of walking or physical activity.
Build your consistency (habits – link to my favorite habit-building book, this is an affiliate link. I’ve gifted this book over 10 times) slowly and over time and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come over the course of a year or longer.
At the top end of the spectrum, if you want to be fully optimized, health-wise, walk 16,000 steps/day.
This is around 8 miles of walking a day. If you walk at a 3 mph pace this will take you approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes per day of walking. That’s quite a bit of walking, however, I don’t know about you, but I love being able to be physically active for that long during a day. I always feel great!
2.7 hours of walking per day probably isn’t realistic for young parents who are working, however for seniors who are retired or working part-time, this is totally feasible. I have several clients who walk around 5-8 miles daily and love it.
Can this be broken down into smaller walks during the day?
Yep, this can be done in smaller increments. If you decide to walk 30 minutes a day you could easily break that into two 15 minutes walks or three, ten-minute walks.
Do what works for you. And please, ditch the all-or-nothing mentality! (if you have one).
Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Walking
If you have balance concerns, make sure to start a balance routine (you can click that link to see one I’ve made), wear comfortable shoes that have a good grip so that you don’t slip, and if you need to, use an assistive device.
An assistive device can be a walking stick, cane, or walker, depending on your mobility level.
As a fun aside, there is a gentleman who has a four-wheel walker in my neighborhood who is in his late 70s, early 80’s. He walks every day, rain or shine, quite quickly. His balance isn’t great, so he places his forearms on an attachment that he has on his walker to keep him upright and he just GOES.
There are many adjustments and modifications that can be made for your specific situation.
How to Stay Motivated or Build Motivation?
Here are a couple of tips to stay motivated for physical activity and increasing walking:
- Walk with a friend. Having accountability with any new habit is very important. Any time I decide I want to start something new I make sure I have accountability. Without this, we have a much higher chance of failure.
- Walk a safe and enjoyable route. Make sure to choose routes that are safe and well-lit, where there is scenery that you enjoy observing.
- If you are walking alone, listen to some music, podcasts, audiobook, or something else you enjoy. As a safety note, make sure you can still hear what’s going on around you.