Walking for exercise really does improve quality of life. According to Kansas State University, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity; Individuals who sat for over 4 hours at a time were significantly more likely to report chronic illnesses. This information does not take anyone by surprise and thus the importance of sharing how to implement a WALKING PARTNERS program that can be added to your Trainer’s toolbox today.
Trainers most likely see walking as a general activity that we all take for granite and feel that their job should be conducting specialty classes, one on one sessions etc. My goal is to challenge the Trainer world to consider introducing a WALKING PARTNERS program in their community in the spirit of getting all ages fit regardless of their fitness level.
The health and wellbeing of people as they age is an essential element of their quality of life. That quality of life is highest when people remain independent with vitality and mobility. The saying if “you don’t use it; you lose it” really applies to older adults as they age. In retirement communities (whether they be independent living, assisted living, skilled care or continuous care), it is true that the healthier the residents, the lower the cost of their care and thus the lower the overall operating costs of the communities. Studies have shown that programmed activities in general have higher levels of participation; and specifically, walking programs have been demonstrated to be especially effective in helping to maintain older adults’ mobility, balance, muscle tone and overall physical viability where participation levels are consistently high.
As Chief Ambassador of your business you should provide a multitude of opportunities to keep your clients motivated. Integrating a WALKING PARTNERS program at a fitness facility, Retirement Living Community or within a neighborhood is simple if you stick to the following guidelines provided by The Institute of Preventive Foot Health along with the ICAA.
1. Understanding the importance of preventive foot health is vital. Identifying reputable specialists (podiatrist or orthopedic doctor) in your community to refer clients to get an initial foot assessment if working with older adults will ensure they are wearing proper fitting shoes.
2. Learning when to refer clients is helpful if a client complained about any of the items below. A good source for more in depth information is the Institute for Preventive Foot Health.
- Evidence of infection – areas of redness around sores or cuts in the feet, swellingor pus pockets are indicative of infection, and should be treated quickly;
- Any evidence of ulceration or sores that do not appear to be healing;
- Severe foot anomalies with concentrated pressure points or in which foot does notfit properly into shoe;
- History of serious blistering or persistent “hot spots”;
- Evidence of serious calluses on any area of the foot;
- Cases of diabetic (or other type) neuropathy (loss of sensation in the feet) in which participant is not already under care of a doctor or has not been diligent about regular doctor visits and/or following dietary and medication regimens;
- Severe swelling;
- Cases of serious athlete’s foot or toenail fungus;
- Extremely long toe nails that need to be trimmed
- Encourage use of a pedometer they come in all shapes and price ranges, inexpensive ones are great to start with to simply count steps and as the user progresses they may wish to locate the various apps and devices for their phones that fit their needs.
- Identify and broadcast three routes that accommodate all fitness levels for 10 weeks – Think of scenic parks, historic areas or indoor early mall walking for climates where the heat is unbearable. Frequency and progression is the formula for your clients to see results. Exploring your city will keep your routes interesting and give your clients enjoyment they would not seek out on their own. Incorporating themes in your walks can encourage new clients i.e. a Garden walk- identifying new plants or Strength & Yoga walks you could incorporate bands and small props to be used along the way. Consider promoting Family and Hill walks and Walk & Talk walks are great for older adults.
- Tracking and measuring will keep your client motivated so consider ways to help them log their steps over the 10 weeks and reward the client at the end for the most steps averaged.
Sustaining a WALKING PARTNERS program can morph into many wonderful things- After a 10 week period you are sure to locate client Champions that will lead walks in your absence or you can re-connect with the traditional fitness equipment at your club. Trainers should make it their first priority to explore and be familiar with not just the functionality of equipment but identify the equipment that will make your job easier that focuses on a positive user experience. Acquainting your client with more than just the quick start button will bring mutual results to both of you.
Not yet convinced? Consider expanding your skill set to continue your education beyond just renewal CEC’s. Learning more about the older adult and how to work with the aging will ensure you are equipped to handle this ever growing segment. Organizations that are nationally recognized, backed by solid research with evidence based protocol along with the ability to track and measure clients results will ensure you are learning content that is sustainable overtime.
• 2.5 feet: average person’s stride length
• 2, I 00 average steps: about one mile
• 10,000 steps: about 5 miles
• 10,000 steps: expends about 300 to 400 calories (depending on body size and walking speed)
• 1,200 steps: 10 minutes of walking
• 3, I 00 – 4,000 steps: 30 minutes of moderately intense walking
Note: all these equivalents are averages that will vary among individuals Sources: Research Digest, Walking.about.com
How Many Steps for an active lifestyle?
Sedentary: <5,000 steps/day
Low active: 5,000-7,499 steps/day
Somewhat active: 7,500-9,999 steps/day
Active: > or = I 0,000 steps/day
Highly active: > 12,500 steps/day
Source: Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR Jr., Sports Medicine
Remember FUN needs to make a comeback! No amount of discipline and will power can replace an experience that is fresh, engaging and really fun. Have fun creating and implementing your own Walking Partners Program.
Tracey Harvey is the Corporate Director of Consumer Relations & Vitality for GenCare
Lifestyle, creating Whole Life LivingTN – connections for seniors
Institute of Preventive Foot Health/ICAA WALKING PARTNERS GUIDELINES