Walking For Health, Fitness & Weight Loss When You’re Over 50

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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woman over 50 walking for health on walking path

Are you a walker! I am! I’m all about walking for health, fitness, and even weight loss! As walking devotees know, it’s an ideal weight-bearing exercise for women over 50! Today I’m going to let you in on why I walk, what my walking routine looks like, and I’m going to share walking plans that will help you meet your goals. (Whether they’re health, fitness, or weight loss.)

I am not a medical professional! I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned as I’ve researched the benefits of walking and walking techniques and tools. Be sure to check with your physician before starting any fitness program.

Why I Walk

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Several years earlier, I was diagnosed with the precursor, Osteopenia, so I knew it was coming. Unfortunately, I also fall into several high-risk categories for the condition.) Despite what you may hear from supplement brands, osteoporosis cannot be reversed, although there are things you can do to curb the symptoms and protect yourself from falls.

Also, in late summer 2021, I herniated a disc in my lower back. The pain was nearly unbearable. Unfortunately, my case was not operable, and I’m allergic to ibuprofen, so I struggled through with acetaminophen, physical therapy, and my life-saver, Voltaren. (I shared more about Voltaren in THIS post.)

Walking was something that my doctor and physical therapist prescribed for both of those conditions! I’ve always worked out but somehow, walking never seemed “difficult” enough, so I wasn’t a big fan. But now, I’m a believer. And a big fan.

woman over 50 walking for health on walking path wearing free people Movement Breathe Deeper Leggings and crop top

Good Walking Technique

Just like any exercise, proper form is essential! It will help you avoid injury and get the maximum benefit! According to the experts, there are a few things to be aware of when walking for health.

  • Walk with your head up. Looking forward, not at the ground.
  • Relax your neck, shoulders, and back. Don’t hold them stiffly upright.
  • Swing your arms freely, bending your elbows slightly. Pump your arms for a little added cardio!
  • Walk with a straight back and slightly tightened core muscles. Don’t slump forward or arch backward.
  • Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.

Walking for Health

You’ve probably heard about the 2016 study that encouraged people to take 10,000 steps per day. That works out to roughly 5 miles of walking! If that’s not a reasonable amount for you, set a feasible step goal and work to achieve that. According to multiple studies, any movement, from housework and gardening to doing dishes and getting the mail, can affect and help overall health.

Walking is one of the best things you can do for your general health! Think outside the box about how you can increase your step count by making small changes in your daily movement patterns! Here are a few ideas:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park further away from the door at shops or work.
  • Walk to lunch, dinner, work, or other activities.
  • Take walking breaks throughout the day instead of sitting for long stretches. of time. (I set the timer on my Apple Watch to remind me!)
  • Don’t let the weather slow you down! If the weather isn’t ideal for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.

Health Benefits of Walking

  • Walking improves cardiovascular health.
  • Walking reduces stress.
  • Walking helps with joint pain.
  • Walking boosts immunity.
  • Walking improves sleep.
  • Walking enhances mood and reduces symptoms of depression. (Thanks, endorphins!)
  • Walking increases life span.
  • Walking helps prevent or manage conditions like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Fitness trackers can help with motivation! I use the built-in fitness app on my Apple Watch. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, here are a few fitness trackers that are highly rated.

Walking for Fitness

Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall fitness. Just 30 minutes every day can make a big difference in your overall fitness and energy level! It’s a type of cardiovascular activity that increases your heart rate. The improved blood flow delivers oxygen throughout the body, which helps to boost energy levels.

close up of woman over 50 walking for health on walking path weairing free people Movement Breathe Deeper Leggings and crop top by a bench

People tend to think that walking isn’t as effective as high-impact workouts. It’s not true! A large study of runners and walkers found that after six years of follow-up, the walkers showed similar health benefits (think lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower rates of diabetes) as the higher-intensity runners. (And, I’m guessing, lower rates of injury and joint damage as well. 🤔) Do note, however, that the faster the walking pace, the greater the risk reduction observed.

Fitness Benefits of Walking

  • Walking increases energy levels.
  • Walking increases endurance.
  • Walking builds core, hip, and leg muscle strength.
  • Walking improves with balance and coordination.
  • Walking strengthens bones.
  • Walking improves cognition and memory.

Walking for Weight Loss

The key to walking for weight loss is interval training. It’s not complicated! You simply alternate periods of brisk walking with more leisurely walking. This burns more calories than regular walking because your body is forced to rev up and slow down repeatedly. The good news? Interval training can be done in less time than regular walking for the same (or improved) benefits.

Breathe Deeper Crop Top | Breathe Deeper Leggings | Twist Front Tank (4 colors) | Brooks Women’s Ghost 14 Neutral Running Shoe | Colorful Cheetah Apple Watch Band

Alternatively, you can interval train while walking by walking on varied terrain. It burns more calories! Walking up hills, stairs, or inclines builds your hamstring and glute muscles. Walking downhill builds your quadriceps. Consider slowing your pace slightly and incorporating resistance exercises to build muscle like lunges, squats, or even tricep dips on a nearby bench! Think creatively about how you can burn more calories and increase muscle mass during your daily walk.

Weight Loss Benefits of Walking

  • Walking burns calories.
  • Walking burns fat.
  • Walking builds muscle mass. (Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more muscle you have, the bigger your resting energy expenditure—which means that your body burns more calories overall, no matter what you’re doing.)
  • Walking lowers blood sugar.

For more about walking for weight loss, I recommend the excellent book Walking Your Way to Weight Loss: A Simple Two-Part Approach to Becoming Fitter, Healthier, and Happier in 49 Days by HealthFit Publishing.

Stretching & Walking

If your muscles are tight, they can create tension in certain areas of your body and pull you out of proper alignment. Stretching helps loosen those muscles to keep your body in the proper position. That, in turn, helps you become more efficient at walking and reduces your risk of being sidelined by an injury.

You can stretch either before or after walking! The key is to be sure your muscles are warmed up first. I usually start off walking slowly and stop after 5-10 minutes to stretch.

woman over 50 stretching her quad before walking for weight loss
Quadricep stretch

Important Stretches for Walkers

  • Hamstring Stretch
  • Groin Stretch
  • Calf Stretch
  • Quadricep Stretch
  • For more stretching ideas for walkers, click HERE.

At the end of my walk, I gradually slow down my pace to lower my heart rate and help my muscles cool down. Sometimes I stretch again after that.

Workout Gear for Walking

woman over 50 wearing free people Movement Breathe Deeper Leggings and crop top

Breathe Deeper Crop Top | Breathe Deeper Leggings | Brooks Women’s Ghost 14 Neutral Running Shoe | Colorful Cheetah Apple Watch Band (See all of our favorite Apple Watch bands in THIS post.)

Thanks to the V-shaped waistband, these leggings are so flattering! They’re soft and stretchy knit, and I’m ordering them in “midnight navy” too! They fit TTS.

If shorts are more your style, THESE are the ones I recommend! They have a convenient hidden cell phone pocket on the inner liner and a back zip pocket to securely stash keys, credit cards, or whatever. The waistband is comfortable flat elastic, so nothing digs in, and the sweat-wicking fabric of the inner liner means no chafing! There are ten color options.

When it comes to shoes, look for proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock.

The takeaway? The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. Want more info? Check out the highly-rated books below that tackle the subject in greater detail.

Isn’t it encouraging to know that physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive? (And you can do it while catching up with friends!) I love cute workout clothes, but the bottom line is that all you really need is a good pair of sneakers. Get out there, girls!

Are you a walker? Let me know your best walking tips and tricks in the comments below, okay?

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Suzy Mighell

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12 Comments

  1. I love to walk! It is good to know it has all these great benefits. Thanks for the link for the shorts. I’m trying these! I like the hidden phone holder and back pocket for keys/money.
    Thanks Suzy!

    1. Marjie,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad this post encouraged you about all the good things you’re doing for your body when you walk!

      You will love the shorts! The wide waistband is awesome!

      xoxo
      Suzy

  2. Walking is my favorite form of exercise! I use the app 5K Runner for my interval reminder. I don’t “run” just walk faster! Thanks Suzy!

  3. I am a runner but when I am no longer able to run I will walk. Such great information here, thanks Suzy. I Love reading all your posts!

    1. Dawn,

      Thank you for your comment! As a runner, you are getting all of the benefits I describe in this post, and additional as well. That is fantastic! Good for you!

      xoxo
      Suzy

  4. I purchased the book about walking a bit ago. It is informative.
    I have fibromyalgia and have had a DVT which led to Chronic vein insufficiency and must wear a compression garment on one leg indefinitely. (I am alive so I will wear it).
    My husband walks most every day -hot, cold, and snow. I walk with him many days but I do not do the amount that he usually does –he does about 4-5 miles. I do about half. Then we walk after dinner as well when the weather permits.
    I agree that walking is one of the best things for you. The DVT threw me for a loop as I was always a dancer and active. I was told I would not walk again when originally diagnosed. I guess I am stubborn and I walk.
    Thank you for writing about the benefits of walking.
    I do hope that your pain is not as much.

    1. Maureen,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry to hear about your struggle. I’m so proud of you for continuing to walk – it sounds like you’ve defied the odds! Yay!

      I so appreciate you taking the time to comment, Maureen.

      xoxo
      Suzy

  5. Suzy,
    I read about Osteostrong in Tony Robbins’ newest book, “Life Force.” I too got the Osteopenia diagnosis this year and knew it was coming since it runs in my family and I’m petite, etc. Anyway, I like Osteostrong so much I decided to join their staff part-time at the Frisco location. However, they have a Dallas location for you to check out for a free session/tour: https://www.osteostrongmidtowndallas.com/

    People HAVE increased their bone density and reversed Osteoporosis with it! Ten to fifteen minutes one day a week–can’t get any easier!

    Take care,
    Kelly

  6. I’m absolutely a walker and am happy that I can even walk to work if the weather is nice! My tip is to listen to podcasts. I feel like it’s a learning time for me and I tend to go longer if I’m listening to something good.

  7. Carol,

    That is a fantastic tip and I know several friends who do the same thing! Thank you so much for sharing and thanks for such a great idea! I know you’ll be an encouragement to others to do the same thing!

    xoxo
    Suzy

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