Stay on your toes to keep your feet healthy
Health professionals agree that to maintain quality of life, exercise is crucial. According to the Public Agency of Canada, walking every day is the best way to keep fit, especially for seniors, given its relatively low physical risks and significant long-term benefits.
In her book Senior Fitness, Ruth E. Heidrich calls walking is the simplest form of exercise. “Almost anyone can do it at any time and anywhere. It’s certainly cheap, requiring only a good pair of walking shoes. Walking also requires only the minimum fitness levels to start with.”
Studies have shown that walking regularly can lower the risk of death from cancer and heart disease, and that increasing the walking distance increased this benefit. According to the Foot Health Foundation of America, one study found that taking brisk half-hour walks just six times a month appeared to cut the risk of death by 44 per cent and even those who exercised occasionally were 30 per cent less likely to die than those who were sedentary.
“Even if you initially can only walk one block, you should be able to rapidly increase how far you walk,” writes Heidrich, the winner of eight Senior Olympics gold medals. “You will burn about 50 calories per mile. The only real disadvantage is that you will soon plateau in your fitness progress and will need to start walking farther or faster or find some hills.”
There are many short-term benefits to walking, also: It controls weight, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as a brisk walk can burn up to 300 calories an hour. Walking improves circulation, by getting the heart to beat faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles. It facilitates rehabilitation following many illnesses and almost immediately improves sleep and generates a sense of well-being. Walking strengthens your bones and keeps depression, stress and anxiety at bay by producing endorphins, the body’s natural tranquilizer.
While no special equipment is needed to start walking, even in the best of weather and with the best intentions you do need good feet, since aching feet pose the biggest obstacle to becoming active. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, most people are born with healthy feet but three out of four develop serious foot problems as they age. In the short term, there are several types of insoles on the market that reduce foot pain by cushioning or massaging the foot. In the long term, keeping a regular eye on your feet and not neglecting them are essential.Invest in comfortable well-fitting shoes, making sure they give proper support and have a non-slip sole.
• Check your feet every day, looking for cuts, blisters, bruises, sores, infected toenails or swelling. Wash and dry them every day.
• Do foot exercises regularly, such as picking up marbles with your toes, rotating your ankles in circles or pointing forward or side to side with your toes.
• See your foot-care specialist or your doctor if you notice a sore that won’t heal; unusual sen- sations like coldness, cramping or tingling, a change in the appearance of your foot or less sensation.
To learn more, visit the Victorian Order of Nurses at von.ca