Lace up those walking shoes for a mind and body workout

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

group of womenWhether in your 50s, 80s or in between, you can walk your way to better physical and mental health, say Baycrest experts.

“It’s the most underrated but beneficial exercise people can do,” says Judy Chu, a Baycrest kinesiologist who runs programs at Baycrest’s Wagman Centre.

For seniors in their 70s and 80s. She adds strength, balance and co-ordination training to her land- and water-based exercise classes.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Susan Vandermorris gives the same advice to adults who take part in her Memory and Aging program, at Baycrest. “It’s a great way to insert small amounts of exercise into your daily life and make regular physical activity a habit. Think about the things you do weekly. When you buy groceries, park at the back of the parking lot and walk five minutes more to the store.”

Both experts recommend the following:

  • Talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
  • Walking is the best exercise; those with mobility problems should try pool-based training.
  • Walk at a good pace, but one that allows you to still talk comfortably with a companion.
  • Start slow. Introduce a 10-minute walk to your day and build up gradually. Make exercise a habit by finding ways to insert it into your daily activities.
  • Build up to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (65 years and older) that recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. The guidelines suggest adding muscle and bone strengthening activities at least two days a week to help prevent falls and maintain mobility.