OAWH: Older Adults and Walking for Health

Older adults should take part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous activity each week. A walking program is an inexpensive, easy and convenient way to improve overall well-being and to enhance quality of life.

What are the Benefits of Walking?

Increasing physical activity through walking can help with:

  • decreasing blood glucose levels
  • decreasing systolic blood pressure
  • reducing the risk of coronary heart disease
  • reducing high cholesterol
  • bone density
  • flexibility
  • osteoarthritis

What is a pedometer?

  • a device that tracks number of steps taken
  • some pedometers simply measure steps
  • some pedometers track distance walked and calories burned

What Does a Pedometer Do?

  • provides immediate feedback on number of steps taken
  • measures current activity level
  • assists in tracking and setting goals over time to help increase physical activity

What are the Limitations of a Pedometer?

  • does not measure intensity of physical activity
  • does not measure duration of physical activity

Using a Pedometer

  • test pedometer: clip on belt,walk twenty steps, stop and check pedometer for accuracy
  • wear pedometer for one week
  • track and record step count at end of each day
  • after seven days add daily steps and divide total number of steps from that week by seven
  • this number is the baseline number of steps needed for walking program

Recommendations for Daily Step Goals

The average sedentary North American accumulates approximately 3,500 – 5,000 steps each day. Research suggests that, in general, the average North American should increase their daily walking activity to approximately 7,000 – 10,000 per day. The guide below will help determine an individual’s current activity level based on their daily walking activity.

If total daily steps are:

  • under 5,000 per day - categorized as having a sedentary lifestyle
  • between 5,000 & 7,499 per day- categorized as "lowactive"
  • between 7,500 & 9,999 - categorizedas "some what active"
  • 12,500 or more - categorized as "highly active"

Starting a Walking Program

Prior to beginning a walking program an assessment of physical readiness from a regulated health professional is strongly recommended. A health professional can recommend a walking program tailored according to the limitations imposed by chronic disease or disability.

A Sample Walking Program2

  • choose level that best matches current physical activity level

Level 1: this program is for people who are currently inactive

Km goal: start at Week 1 with approximately 1 km and work up to about 4 km by Week 10

Steps per day using pedometer: establish baseline. Increase number of steps by 500 each week until goal reached

Level 2: this program is for people who are physically active on a regular basis

Km goal: start at Week 1 with about 2 km and work up to about 8 km by Week 10

Steps per day using pedometer: establish baseline. Increase number of steps by 500 each week until goal reached

Weekly Walking Log

This information prepared in conjunction with University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, the Government of Canada, Networks of Centre of Excellence, and NICE.