Running May Improve Walking Efficiency In Older Adults

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Many older adults assume that running is out of the question for their fitness routine unless they have been running for several years. However, experts now suggest that running and high-intensity exercise may be more beneficial for seniors than just walking. Also, they suggest that running can help seniors walk better and with greater ease.

The Science Behind Running To Improve Walking

A recent study that was published by several major news outlets revealed that running can give older adults better walking economy, which is the energy required to walk and maintain a normal speed. To put it in other terms, running can help seniors put that coveted spring back in their step.

The study analyzed two groups of adults who were in their 70s and 60s. One group consisted of adults who walked, and the other group consisted of people who ran. Researchers found that the adults who ran regularly did not require as much energy to walk at the same speed as the walking group required when moving at their normal pace.

In comparison with the energy of college students who were mostly sedentary, the running group of older adults displayed the same level of walking efficiency. Although the researchers could not pinpoint the cause of the better efficiency in the running group, they hypothesized that runners have better movement coordination and require less leg muscle contraction.

To Run Or Not To Run?

While this study showed promising results that may benefit many seniors, researchers emphasized the importance of working with a doctor or specialist to develop an ideal exercise routine. Older adults who want to build strength each have their own unique medical history, physical condition and other issues to consider. Only a professional can suggest an ideal exercise regimen with steps that build strength and endurance.

Maintaining an exercise routine that is recommended by a doctor or professional can help an older adult remain independent longer, reduce fall risk, increase mobility and slow down aches and pains that come with aging and a sedentary lifestyle.

Researchers said that more work must be done to look at the benefits of running versus walking for older adults. However, this study laid a good foundation to show that high-intensity exercise can improve a person’s quality of life as he or she ages. For healthy adults who are nearing retirement and expect to spend less time on their feet, it is important to enter the next life chapter with an optimal exercise plan to remain ambulatory.

Where To Start

Before starting any new exercise routine, talk to a physical therapist. The therapist can assess current health status and abilities, and past health records may be requested as well.

Some people may have injuries or conditions that make it dangerous to start running or doing high-intensity exercise right away. However, a physical therapist can suggest a variety of exercises that build strength and endurance. When combined with proper nutrients, optimal fitness routines can help aging adults preserve their mobility longer.