A Daily Stroll, Strong Medicine

(Associated Press) BOSTON- All those mall walkers are onto something.  A major study found that a daily stroll keeps older people living longer.The research suggests that for folks in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, walking is powerful medicine.  Over a 12 year period, the study found that covering just 2 miles a day cut the risk of death almost in half.  Clearly, the legions of elderly folks who take the time for a daily stroll through the shopping center or around the park already believe this.Yet among fitness professionals, the subject is surprisingly controversial.  Some have questioned whether leisurely paced exercise does much good at all.  And there is virtually no carefully done research to show that walking, gardening, and such keep senior citizens healthier.The new study provides evidence of this benefit in older people.  Amy A. Hakim and others from the University of Virginia calculated that every extra mile they walk per day lowers the death rate by 19 percent.  “The message is that we should become active and remain active,” said Robert D. Abbott, one of the researchers.  “Walking is easy, and it can be quite enjoyable with friends on a nice day.”  Despite walking’s obvious popularity, especially among older people, most Americans have not gotten the message about this or any other kind of exercise.Dr. Jody Wilkinson, medical director of the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, TX, noted that 60% of Americans don’t get enough regular activity to improve their health.  The numbers are probably worse for the elderly.  The latest study shows “it doesn’t take that much,” Wilkinson said.  “Two or three miles is within the ability of almost everyone.”

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