Sometimes my client’s mention, by information from other healthcare providers, that walking alone improves their balance. This article from the New York Times describes a recent study finding people who varied their exercise routine, and jogged, biked, or walked at different speeds, walked more efficiently than people who engaged in only placid walking. As people age, they typically become more inefficient walkers, and use more oxygen. As a result, older adults feel more tired with walking, and walk less. On the other hand, people who jogged or biked, in addition to walking, maintained their walking efficiency as they aged.
The Otago Exercise Program, an evidence based protocol that reduces falls by 35% to 40% in older adults, includes a walking program of 30 minutes every other day, and a set of strength and balance exercises, on the other days. A combination of walking with strength and balance exercises improved balance in the study population.
Doing something is better than doing nothing. Walking improves mood, fitness and cardiac health, alleviates depression, and reduces risk for cancer and chronic disease. However, varying the speed, type, or duration of an exercise routine increases benefits, and reduces risk of falls.