Good news! As it turns out, walking may be one of the best forms of physical exercise for seniors, especially for those who hate to work out. Walking has all the hallmarks of senior- friendly exercise: it’s easy to get started, it has a low risk for injury, it can be done at any intensity, and the bonus — it’s social.
According to Dr. Howard LeWine of Harvard Health, “If you want to stay healthy and mobile well into old age, start walking today — even if you’ve already edged into ‘old age.’” Walking improves cardiovascular health, lowers risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, (a Harvard study indicated that walking just three hours per week resulted in a 35 percent smaller chance of heart attack), stroke, and diabetes.
Louisville is home to many great walking groups, and one of the most fun may be The Norton Healthcare Get Healthy Walking Club that walks at the Louisville Zoo March through October each year. If you are someone who needs to be distracted into not thinking about exercise and you love animals, this is the group for you. (It’s free, too.)
The Zoo Walkers’ loop at the Louisville Zoo is a paved surface walk through the animal exhibits. The course combines flat areas and hills with the sights and sounds of the zoo for a nontraditional and challenging twist on exercise. Individual walker members can enter the zoo and sign in between 8-9:15am, but must exit by 9:30am. Directional signs keep walkers on track and provide special health tips along the way.
“During the walking months, most walks are self-led,” says Hannah Hernandez with Adult Prevention & Wellness at Norton Healthcare, “We have a lot of stroller walkers — moms or grandparents walking their babies — but we also have a lot of 60+ aged members. We host group walk dates where walkers can chat and walk with Norton Healthcare representatives. We are actively working to expand and improve the club with additional activities in 2020.”
Louisville native Phillip Willis says, “There’s nothing like being at the zoo early in the morning for a brisk walk. The backdrop of the animals and their sights and sounds takes me back to childhood visits there. Even though the course stays the same, the scenery is always growing and changing. You don’t see the same animals every time, which is cool. Their activity seems to change with the weather, time of day, and even their moods. The course isn’t flat either, so I feel like I am getting a pretty good workout.
“At my age, I’m not excited about exercise at all, but I’ll get up every day to go see those animals, and I have made some good friends too. It’s a great program.”
Registration for the coming 2020 season is currently open through Norton’s website or by calling its office. Walkers will receive a membership card, an invitation to the Get Healthy Walking Club Expo on July 11, opportunities to participate in other events, and eligibility for prizes and giveaways.
According to Hannah, the day of the Expo, “walkers are invited to stay all day at the zoo. During the event we host free health screenings, group walks, exercise demonstrations, and a kids zone.”
Louisville Zoo Get Healthy Walking Club
Walks at the Louisville Zoo every year: March 1 through October 31.
Free to join with other opportunities to participate in Get Healthy Events.
Contact: 502.899.6842 or register here
BY BOBBE ANN CROUCH | PHOTO BY KYLE SHEPHERD