The Benefits of Walking

feet walking

What’s not to like about walking? It’s free. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy on the joints. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. Walking is an aerobic exercise; a University of Tennessee study found that women who walked had less body fat than those who didn’t walk. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf acts as a venous pump, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back to the heart, reducing the load on the heart. Walking is good for you in other ways as well. 

Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Tennessee found that post-menopausal women who walked just one to two miles a day lowered blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent – by 40 percent when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. 

Walking shores up your bones. It can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York. In fact, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent. 

Walking lightens mood. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. Why? Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. 

Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped. 

Walking strengthens muscles. It tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles – which are meant to handle weight – helping to lessen arthritis pain 

Walking improves sleep. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk. 

couple walking outdoors with their grandson

Walking supports your joints. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move. Impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. If you don’t walk, joints are deprived of life-giving fluid, which can speed deterioration. 

Walking improves your breath. When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal. 

Walking slows mental decline. A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, as opposed to a 25-percent decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week. A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less. 

Walking helps you do more, longer.Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living of people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management. 

Why Exercise Works

woman exercising in a pool

Much research goes into the “science of exercise” and scientists have realized it doesn’t require long sessions of sweat-breaking exercise to make improvements in your health, endurance, and strength. 

Each session of exercise stimulates some form of change in every body system including countermeasures for the negative effects of arthritis and protection from symptoms of other chronic diseases. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate level exercise like brisk walking to benefit your health and help prevent disease. Dr. Zhen Yan, professor of medicine reports that his research shows exercise can prevent and even reverse the damage of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as arthritis. Exercise improves circulation and removes cellular waste which is linked to tissue damage associated with many chronic diseases. Essentially “Exercise takes out the trash.” Exercise reduces levels of proteins in the blood that cause inflammation that results in painful swollen joints, improving function and reducing pain. 

Exercise actually does produce more energy by increasing “organelles” that create energy at the individual cell level especially in the skeletal muscles, improving circulation and empowering brain and muscle cells. So on those days when you feel so-o-o tired, gentle to moderate exercise can boost your energy level. 

Exercise improves balance in several ways: improving communication between joints and brain by increasing the awareness of where the joint is in space. Chair Yoga‘s slow controlled movements promotes “motor learning” improving smooth and precise motions thus improving balance. 

Aerobic exercise (water aerobics) strengthens the heart muscle and keeps the circulation flowing through healthier veins and arteries. Better circulation means better oxygen flow to cells in the brain, organs, and muscles. Also stimulating muscle cells to build stronger fibers helps the heart to pump more powerfully and more efficiently. Keeping arteries and veins more elastic will prevent arterial stiffening that result from unhealthy eating or aging which lowers the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

People doing a yoga class

Weight–bearing exercise (walking) keeps joints healthy: strengthened muscles relieve pressure on supporting tendons and ligaments. In other words, the muscle acts as a natural brace. Strengthening core muscles helps support the back, reducing back pain. Stronger muscles absorb the normal jarring of weight-bearing exercise by nourishing and thickening the cartilage inside the joints. 

Rhythmic exercises (line dancing, NuStep and walking) soothe the nerves while producing natural hormones called endorphins that give a happy feeling which helps relieve depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. 

Prove it for yourself. Join one of the many exercise classes and/or use the equipment in the Oasis available here at Kirby Pines. 

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

– Confucius

10 Tips to Tread Safely

Using the Treadmill with Arthritis

woman on a treadmill

Treadmills seem simple, but they can be hazardous, particularly for people with joint or balance issues. “Trying to catch yourself when you lose your balance can result in muscle strains or injury in almost any joint”, says physical therapist Mary Ann Wilmarth, CEO of Back2Back Physical Therapy in Andover, Mass. 

“Injuries can go all the way up the kinetic chain when people slip and try to recover by catching themselves. This can mean foot injuries, strained or sprained ankles, shoulders and wrists – as well as the back and hips if you’re twisting as you lose balance,” she says. 

You can protect yourself by using these tips to tread more safely. 

  1. Use a full-sized treadmill with side rails. The belt should be at least 22 inches wide and 50 inches long, and the machine should have handrails on both sides you can use for balance. 
  2. Wear sturdy, low-heeled athletic shoes. Soles higher than 1 inch can lead to ankle rollovers. Use the topmost shoelace hole for extra stability. 
  3. Learn the controls. Before you step on, get familiar with how to adjust the speed, incline and especially the red “fast-stop” button. 
  4. Use the safety key. Before you hit start, clip the safety key to your shirt so if you slip, the machine will stop immediately. 
  5. Start, then step on. Hold the rail and stand on either side of the belt as you start it at a low speed. Then step on the belt and increase speed slowly. 
  6. Use a slight incline. An incline of about 2% can reduce impact on the spine, hips, knees, feet and ankles, but a steeper climb increases joint stress. 
  7. Find the right stride. You’ll know it’s on target when you’re walking comfortably – not overstretching your lead leg – with arms swinging freely. 
  8. Look straight ahead. Looking down or around can throw off your balance and cause you to trip. 
  9. Stay centered. Know where you are on the belt and avoid drifting sideways or toward the back of the belt. 
  10. Catch Your Fall: If you start to fall while you’re on the treadmill, hit the emergency stop button. Grasp the rails and move your feet to one side, then step off and sit down until you’ve recovered. 
man holding yoga mat

Use the NuStep as an alternative if you are currently using an aid for balance, such as a cane, walker or wheelchair or having balance issues. You should not attempt to use the treadmill. 

Tomorrow’s Treadmill – One day in the near future, a treadmill that uses sonar technology to automatically adjust its speed to match the pace of the user may be the future of treadmills. But until then, follow these guidelines for safety on the treadmill. 

Never use exercise equipment if you have any questions about how to use it. Exercise is important, but your safety is more important. 

Drink More Water!

Stay Hydrated and Stay Well!

man drinking water

Did you know water covers 70 % of the earth’s surface and makes up about 50 to 60% of your body? These are old facts, but true. Water is essential to life. Staying hydrated is important for our general health, too. Dehydration can be the result of exercise, certain medications, diarrhea, excessive sweating, loss of blood and diseases, such as diabetes. With the warm summer days ahead, it is easy to become dehydrated which can cause dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, headaches, heart pounding, cramping, confusion, low blood pressure, rapid but weak pulse and fainting. As we age, we are less aware of our thirst, and our ability to regulate our body’s fluid balance through our kidneys decreases. 

Everyone knows—but many people seem to forget—that water is what sustains life. Here are just two of the benefits of being hydrated: Drinking at least five 8-ounce glasses of water daily reduces the risk of fatal coronary heart disease among older adults. Being sufficiently hydrated reduces the discomfort of constipation, improves balance and kidney function, which reduces the risk of urinary tract infections. 

How much water is enough? 

A good formula for how much water is needed every day is to take one-third of the person’s body weight in pounds and drink the equivalent number of ounces of water daily. For example, a 150-pound woman would need 50 ounces of water daily, or about six 8-ounce glasses of water. 

woman holding a yoga mat

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to start drinking water: 

If you don’t like the taste of water, try flavored water that is available in almost every flavor from Pink lemonade to Mango- Kiwi-lime. Water from the tap with a little ice and a spritz of juice, makes a refreshing beverage. My favorite refresher is a little cranberry juice in a tall glass of water. Also, a little squeeze of lime or lemon in water can be very refreshing on these warm summer days. 

Avoid coffee and caffeinated sodas since caffeine dehydrates your system. 

So drink, stay hydrated and stay well. Don’t forget we have a cool water dispenser in the Oasis when you come to exercise. 


May is Arthritis Awareness Months

It’s odd to say Arthritis Awareness, because if you have one of the over 100 medical conditions that fall under the diagnosis of Arthritis you are probably aware of arthritis everyday and every night. While no cure for arthritis has been developed yet, with much research, medical science has improved its understanding for the causes of arthritis and better treatments including new medications for pain and inflammation relief have been developed. Exercise that emphasizes stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular has an important role in the improvement and continuing function of daily activities. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors research, educational programs, exercise programs, public awareness and advocacy efforts in Congress. Through their Live Yes Program, The Arthritis Foundation offers several resources and virtual events to help people manage their disease and live their best life with arthritis by keeping people informed on new products, diet, exercise and medications. 

Arthritis affects over 54 million people in the US and two-thirds are under the age of 65. Over 300,000 families deal with arthritis in children under the age of 16. The Arthritis Foundation has been fighting juvenile arthritis and supporting families for more than 60 years. Every year they invest more than $4.5 million in outreach and research that advances treatments and will lead to a cure. 

In support of the Arthritis Foundation, we are planning a Bake Sale on Friday, May 19 from 10 to 1 and our own Walk to Cure here at Kirby Pines on Friday, May 26 at 10:30. We need your help. Baked goods for the sale, volunteers to run the sale, and customers to purchase our delicious offerings. Then on the day of our walk we will need volunteers to help at our registration table and walkers to participate. We will have a course marked for around the lake and another course for inside walkers. Water and healthy refreshments will be served following the walk. Please join with our family at Kirby Pines to support the Arthritis Foundation with financial gifts and physical support. 

Last year we raised over $1000 for the Arthritis Foundation. We can make a difference when we team up to Walk to Cure Arthritis. Let’s show our support physically and financially. 

How can you help? Here is what we need: 

May 19th – Bakers and bringers of goodies, helpers for set up and sales, and customers. 

Participants for the walk on May 26th. Sign up with Resident Programs or by email at 

Contributors and supporters 

Volunteers to help with registration and serving refreshments for the walk at Kirby Pines May 26th. 

Thank you for making this fundraiser a success every year.

Working Out Through Pain

Learn when to keep moving through exercise pain and when to stop.

Exercise is crucial if you have arthritis. But knowing just how much activity to do when you’re hurting can be tricky. Research shows that moderate activity can help prevent the progression of arthritis and improve overall function. But while mild muscle soreness after a workout is normal, sharp pain during or immediately after can signal injury. And sometimes simply the fear of pain can keep you from wanting to do any kind of exercise. Here’s how to determine when it’s OK to work through exercise pain – and when it’s not.

If you have mild to moderate pain in a specific joint area before you work out: Some mild pain is typical when you first start to move, but after a few minutes you’ll usually start to feel better, says A. Lynn Millar, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at
Winston Salem State University. “Our joints and muscles get nutrition through movement,” she explains. “With some movement, you’ll improve the lubrication and circulation around that joint.” Start with some gentle range of motion movements and if that feels OK, progress to some low-impact activity like walking.

If you have moderate to severe pain in a specific joint area before you work out: Focus on a different area for a day or two. If your knees hurt, decrease the intensity. If the pain becomes worse, then stop the lower body moves and work your upper body instead. “Continuing to put pressure on a joint when it’s especially sore could contribute to joint damage, so it’s best to ease up for a while,” says physical therapist Richard Kassler, supervisor at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases.

If you have moderate to severe joint pain during exercise: Stop immediately. “Most people with arthritis can work through mild pain safely. But if you’re experiencing a lot of pain while you exercise, even if you’re not doing a particularly joint-taxing
workout, it may be a sign that you have inflammation in the joint, or even joint damage that requires treatment,” says Kassler.

If you consistently have joint pain (not muscle pain) after exercise: Switch to a workout that puts less pressure on your joints. “If you need an elaborate brace or have to pop ibuprofen constantly, it’s a pretty good sign that your activity is too hard on your joints. Swimming, water aerobics and biking are all good options for people with joint pain.

If you occasionally have moderate to severe joint pain the day after you work out: Cut back on the intensity of your workout. Take a day off, then do a shorter, less strenuous workout. If your pain still doesn’t let up, switch to a less intense form of exercise, such as trading your elliptical workout for water aerobics.

Our exercise classes in the pool and in the PAC are good for everyone whether they have arthritis or not. Please consider joining us. See the schedule for times and places.

Time to Get Moving!

My children played a game called you move, you lose. When someone got up from the “choice seat” in the car or at a party, or “Daddy’s cushy chair” in front of the TV, another child would quickly sit in the coveted seat. When the first child returned to find their favorite spot taken, the “offender” shouted, “You move, you lose!” 

As we age, we find just the opposite is true; if we don’t move, we lose. Sitting for long periods of time causes our muscles to weaken and our joints to ache. Usually our worst times are in the mornings just when we rise out of bed. One of the participants in the Chair Yoga exercise class shared her secret of flexibility: she stretches head to toes, including arms, legs, fingers, and neck before she even steps on the floor every morning and then gently exercises each joint for a few minutes before breakfast. She has done this for so long, it’s a habit and she couldn’t imagine starting her day without it. 

When a joint hurts, people tend to protect and not move that joint. In a study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago: “more than 40 percent of those with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, remain inactive; ‘We were surprised they were very inactive,” says the lead author Jungwha “Julia” Lee, PhD, assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine, ‘Regular, moderate physical activity offers a host of benefits. It helps reduce pain and improve well-being.’” 

The moving of muscles and joints does not require expensive exercise equipment, although the Oasis has many helpful pieces of exercise equipment to keep you moving. The Nu- Step is especially helpful with movement of the arms and legs without extra pressure on the joints. Kirby Pines offers exercise classes 5 days a week. These exercise classes will help you implement safe and helpful strengthening and stretching exercises. But just getting out of your apartment and walking the halls of Kirby Pines is a great beginning for moving and gaining flexibility, strength, and balance. Remember “You move, you lose.” Move those aching joints and lose some of that pain of arthritis and lose that attitude that there’s nothing you can do about it. 


This is Dedicated to the One I Love

Remember that old love song from the 60’s. Taking care of yourself for the one you love may be just the motivation you need to begin a healthier you. 

Care giving for a loved one can be one of life’s most draining experiences: affecting mind, body and soul. To counter this, set personal health goals. For example, set a goal to find time to be physically active on most days of the week, or set a goal for getting a good night’s sleep. It’s also crucial to eat a healthy diet. When caregivers understand that, there can be a tremendous sense of relief that allows them to set more realistic goals. Remember these keys to keep depression at bay: 

Maintain a life outside of care giving. Stay connected to friends. Don’t give up your daily routines. Maintain your health. Get regular check-ups, eat a balanced diet, and exercise. Exercise. It un-kinks tense muscles, revs up the cardiovascular system, and floods the brain with feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins. Use simple de-stressing techniques. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation, and self-massage. And laugh. “People don’t think of humor as a way to cope with stress, but they should”. Join a support group. In support groups, you validate your role as caregiver, voice your fears, vent your frustrations, and learn coping strategies and techniques. 

“Exercise is an antidote to aging,” says Barry A. Franklin, PhD, director of the cardiac rehabilitation and exercise labs at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. A well-rounded routine, as part of a healthy lifestyle, may help you avoid things like falls, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Experts say many of the conditions people think are due to getting older have more to do with not moving enough. 

At any age, these are the types of exercise you want to get: 

Aerobic: good for your heart and lungs. It’s also good for your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, sleep, and memory. What to do: You can walk briskly, walk in the water, or do any other activity that gets your heart rate up. 

Strength training: good for your muscles and bones. It’s the principle of “use it or lose it.” What to do: Start with 2-pound hand weights or resistance stretch bands. 

Flexibility and balance: helps prevent falls by stretching your muscles and keep them from stiffening up. What to do: Yoga and tai chi are good for both. You can also learn balance exercises in senior fitness classes or from a personal trainer. 

Whatever you do, start at a medium pace, where you move a little bit but can still hold a conversation. Aim for 30 minutes a day and build up to that, even if you start with just 5 minutes at a time. 

We have everything you need right here at Kirby Pines. Check out the Oasis for exercise equipment or join one of our exercise classes. Setting healthy goals for yourself can be “Dedicated to the ones you love.” 

The Importance of PHYSICAL ACTIVITY for Older Adults

When it comes to staying fit, age is nothing but a number. It doesn’t matter how many candles are on your cake, exercising regularly is important. However, as the body ages, it becomes more vulnerable to things like illness, falls, or cognitive decline. Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle can keep you feeling young, fresh, and energized well into your senior years.

Multiple studies have found that physical activity is one of the main contributors to a long life. Regular exercise can increase your quality of life and lengthen it significantly if done consistently over time.

This makes sense because exercise has always been highlighted as a top motivator for brain and body health. Among many things, physical activity keeps the heart strong, stress levels low, improves sleeping habits, and even improves memory. Longevity is the cherry on top.

Therefore, the older you get, the more useful these benefits become. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a pro to stay fit. There are many easy and effective ways to remain strong for years to come. If you need a little extra incentive, read the following benefits of exercise for seniors.

Reduce Your Chances of Developing Illness or Disease 

Physical activity promotes blood flow, heart health, and hormone regulation, all of which are crucial for fighting back against free radicals and keeping the immune system healthy. If you have a history of illness or would like to do what you can to prevent it from occurring, exercise is one of your best bets. 

Gives You a Sense of Productivity and Purpose 

Exercise can add much-needed structure, routine, and healthy spurts of dopamine to your weekly schedule. As you age, finding activities that bring you satisfaction and purpose become integral to everyday life, and exercise is one that can bring both of those things, and more. 

Prevent Falls with Improved Mobility and Balance 

Gentle physical exercises such as stretching, yoga, strength exercise, and water aerobics can support the body in muscle development and provide you with the central stability necessary for resisting potential damage. 

Use It as an Opportunity to Make Friends 

In this phase of your life, it’s important to reach out to your community and bond with others who are sharing this unique experience called aging. Exercise is a great incentive for getting out and seeing friends, even if it’s just for a walk around the grounds. 

Get Fit in 2023!

More Control Over Weight 

Physical activity also burns calories, which can be useful if your aim is to shift weight. However, even if you are trying to gain healthy weight, exercise is still necessary for its many metabolic benefits. 

Improves Cognitive Function 

Studies have shown regular physical activity can significantly lower the risk of dementia and other cognitive or memory-affected mental diseases. The main reason for this is the increased supply of red blood cells to the brain, which promotes improved neurological speed, accuracy, and longevity. 

Good Sleep, Good Life 

Studies have found that consistent exercise is one of the most effective ways to induce healthy sleeping habits, regardless of age. When your body has been active, it becomes extra tired, affording you a more refreshing and energy-replenishing sleep. 

Give Yourself a Gift This Year!

With Christmas so close, our thoughts turn to gift giving. What would bring a lot of joy and happiness to our loved ones? How about something that is not very expensive, that develops with time using a little persistent effort and no wrapping required?

“The run-up to the new year is the perfect time to place more focus on the priceless gift of good health. From less stress and a smaller waistline to a stronger immune system and reduced risk for disease, it’s hard to think of another holiday gift with such powerful long-term benefits.

As you build your plan for better health, begin by taking a look at the amount of time you spend moving. Whether it’s a dedicated half-hour at the gym or a walk each morning with a friend (furry or otherwise), almost any kind of exercise will allow you to unwrap a whole host of health perks.

“Think of exercise not only as a way to burn more calories, but also as a very strong medicine to help you avoid developing a chronic condition or to control a condition you already have,” said Stephen Compston, a registered dietitian at Renown Health. “Your long-term goal is a minimum of three days each week totaling 150 minutes of exercise.”

Getting at least this much exercise each week can help fend off chronic disease by decreasing blood pressure, promoting better sleep, improving cholesterol levels for better blood flow, boosting mood and elevating energy.

Once you’ve pinned down a get-moving goal for the new year, turn your attention to the food you eat in order to gift yourself with another long list of health benefits. Compston said it’s smart to start eating more non-starchy vegetables and add an array of colors to your meal plan.

Another food-based tip especially relevant during the holiday season is to take steps to avoid overindulging during festive parties and family feasts. One of the biggest pitfalls is going hungry to one of these events, which can set you up for eating way too much.

Along with strengthening your focus on diet and exercise for the holidays and through the new year, other simple ways to bolster well-being include regular hand-washing, staying hydrated and making a commitment to see your primary care provider at least once a year.”

Good Health is hoped for, prayed for, and celebrated. So as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and peek under the Christmas tree, pull out that gift of Good Health and begin to unwrap it for yourself and for the ones you love. “To your Happiness and To your Health!” Merry Christmas!