Exercise walking for seniors: preventing foot problems
-- by Christine Dobrowolski
Exercise has a very important role in the general health and the quality of life of everyone, but especially in seniors. Seniors who walk tend to look younger, sleep more soundly and have fewer visits to the doctor. Walking for 30 to 60 minutes four to six days a week will help improve osteoarthritis and decrease the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Walking is the top recreational sport for seniors.
Although many seniors may be scared to start an exercise
program because they are worried about injury, the health
benefits of exercise outweigh the risk of injury. Walking is
considered one of the best forms of exercise because it's safe,
cheap and easy. Unfortunately, foot problems can prevent
seniors from starting or continuing with a walking program.
Follow these tips to help avoid foot problems when walking:
1. Choose the right shoe. Make sure the shoe is supportive and
bends only at the toes. The shoe should also be stable from
side to side. If you can twist the shoe or fold it in half, it is too
flexible. The shoe should have enough wiggle room for the toes,
yet be snug enough to keep the heel from slipping.
2. Buy shoes in the afternoon. Feet swell during the day and it is
better to fit your shoes at this time. The only exception to this
would be if you always do your walks in the mornings. Make sure
your foot is measured at the store to obtain your correct size.
Feet change size over time. Most feet lengthen and widen over
the years, increasing the shoe size. Don't assume you've always
been the same shoe size.
3. Start slowly with an easy pace. Try a short walk of 15 minutes
and gradually increase the time each day.
4. If you haven't walked before, make sure you start on a flat, soft
surface. A great surface to start on is a level, dirt path. Don't
into climbing hills until you build some endurance.
5. Warm up before walks. Gentle stretching before and after
walking can improve circulation and prevent injury. But, don't over
stretch. If you haven't stretched before, be careful not to over do
This can lead to injury.
6. Avoid walking in bad weather. Cold, wet weather makes
surfaces slippery and hard and decreases visibility. Muscles can
become tight and the feet can become numb, increasing the
chance of injury.
7. Examine your feet after the walk. Look for areas of irritation,
red spots, blisters or areas of swelling. Self- treating can turn a
minor problem into a major problem. Consult a podiatrist if a
8. Avoid cotton socks. The white cotton socks you've been told to
wear all these years are not appropriate for exercise walking.
Synthetic or wool socks will help wick moisture away from your
feet as you walk. This will decrease your chance of fungal
infections, excess rubbing or blister formation.
9. Walk in well-lit places. The darker the trail or road, the more
difficult it is to see and the higher the chance you will have of
tripping, falling or twisting an ankle.
10. Don't walk through pain. As soon as you notice a foot
problem, stop walking. If you continue walking with an injury you
could be making the problem worse. If a few days of rest does
not resolve the problem, see a podiatrist. If you feel it's
necessary to continue your exercise program, try using a
stationary bike while you give your foot a rest.
Christine Dobrowolski is a podiatrist and the author of Those
Aching Feet: Your Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment of
Common Foot Problems. To learn more about Dr. Dobrowolski
and her book visit http://www.skipublishing.com. To find products
for feet visit http://www.northcoastfootcare.com.