Walking is good exercise at any age, but is especially good choice for exercise over 50 as it’s low impact, weight bearing and good for cardio health.
Low impact exercise
Low impact means any exercise that doesn’t involve the body being airborne and landing. In running, rope skipping and jumping jacks for example, there is a point when both feet are in the air. While some people can carry on doing these types of exercise to a great age, others find that their joints are less good at cushioning the impact as they get older. If you have any sort of joint issues, you should stick to low impact exercise.
Weight bearing exercise
As women’s oestrogen levels start to decline, from mid-30s onwards, so do bone mineral deposits. The decline of bone mineral density accelerates after menopause, leaving women susceptible to bone fractures. To offset this decline, exercise over 50 should include weight bearing exercise. This isn’t the same as weight training. It means exercise where you are on your feet, moving your own weight. So mat exercise like Pilates and yoga would be less beneficial in this context. Swimming and cycling are also less beneficial because you’re not supporting your own weight. Walking, on the other hand, is ideal as a weight bearing exercise.
Oestrogen also has a protective effect against heart and circulatory disease, so cardio workouts should form part of any exercise over 50 plan for women. Cardio (or aerobic) workouts are any activity which is continuous for several minutes or more, in which the heart is able to keep supplying the muscles with enough oxygen to keep going. When we exercise and get out of breath, this trains our hearts to get bigger and stronger and pump more blood with every beat. Ordinary walking at normal pace for 15+ minutes several times a week will be beneficial to heart health, however using speed intervals will increase the benefits.
A 6 week fitness walking plan for women over 50
This is a beginner plan to get you started with interval walking. There are 3 speed levels:
- Level 1: normal walking pace
- Level 2: walking a little faster, you start to become aware of your breathing and become warmer
- Level 3: brisk walking, fast enough to make you feel slightly out of breath
Planning your walks
Make sure you have comfortable clothing and shoes. You should find that you get warmer as you walk, so wear layers that you can take off. It’s also a good idea to take a bottle of water with you, especially on the longer walks. Read more here about staying hydrated.
To start with, it’s simplest to use a “there and back again” route – that is, walk for half the time and then turn around and walk back again. If you use a fitness tracker or tracking app on your phone, you’ll be able to see what distance you’ve covered. Then, if you want to, you can use the distance you’ve covered to plan a circular route.
Although walking is a natural, healthy activity, please make sure you read these general safety guidelines before you start. Please also ensure that bear personal safety in mind when planning where to walk.
The walking schedule
The schedule sets out the time to be spent walking at each level. As you can see, more time is spent at the faster speeds as the week progress. You can download a printable version of the schedule by entering your e-mail address in the box below.
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