Seniors can improve health with just 15 minutes of walking a day

Senior Health

By pH health care professionals

“I want to do exercise, but the idea is boring,” said one senior citizen patient, glumly.

Fair enough. Who really jumps at the word “exercise”? This most beneficial of pastimes pales as a suggestion when compared with “baklava,” “Downton Abbey marathon,” or “cocktail party.”  And the World Health Organization says that we are supposed to get 30 minutes per day, five days per week, at a moderate (fast walking) pace! This is enough to daunt a great many people.

As a result, doctors often find that their patients are either rabid gym rats or don’t exercise at all. Going from nothing to 30 minutes a day simply sounds intimidating. Cue the ice cream to soothe the self-loathing for not liking exercise, and cue stiff muscles and slow metabolisms.  

But this year, some experts are recommending that these recommendations be loosened up. In the face of new science that backs up what seems like trifling amounts of physical activity, researchers are endorsing bite-sized workout chunks.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed many exercise studies covering over 120,000 patients. In these studies, exercise effort gets categorized into METs (metabolic equivalent per minute). Moderate exercise gets you 4 METs or “points” per minute, while vigorous exercise counts for 6. The group of people that was the least active, those that got less than 500 total METs per week (say, two 45-minute power walks or five slower walks), still decreased their risk of mortality by 22 percent. Whereas the WHO is recommending the equivalent of 600-900 METS, in contrast.

Because of this, the study authors recommend beginner-level senior exercisers start at 15 minutes per day. This encouraging news works well with the advice found in the popular book The Compound Effect. In this book, the author encourages little bits of good behaviors at a time, as opposed to absolute, drastic attempts at change. The five minutes of running a day, he says, motivates us to run farther and faster the next time and gets us into a routine. It removes the fear associated with the perceived need to exercise like an athlete. This principle extends to dieting (eat one more vegetable than usual a day, instead of going raw vegan suddenly) and learning (study 10 pages every night, instead of cramming the night before the test).

Be proactive!

If you have friends who could use a little extra movement, invite them to join you in 15 minutes of activity. Try removing the label “exercise”— instead, say you will be “dancing” or “walking” or “stretching.” You just might be shocked at how quickly the time passes — and be ready for more! You can also enlist the help of professionals, like our personal trainers at pH Labs. We know the gym environment is not for everyone, so we have our own private fitness studio in our Sherman Oaks health center. With doctors on site, knowledgeable staff and advocacy services for seniors, there’s no better place to start working out.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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