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AARP: Walking an easy, surprisingly effective way to stay fit

Staying healthy in the new year is a very common goal for people of all ages, and that includes baby boomers. Though there are many different methods to go about staying fit, one of the most effective can also be one of the easiest. AARP reports that a regular walking regiment yields numerous physical and mental benefits that will pay off later on in life.

Anybody who needs an proof of the effectiveness of this exercise need look no further than 51-year-old Rick Genter. He found himself morbidly obese and getting very limited physical activity due to his desk job. In an effort to lose weight, he joined a program that told him to get more activity by any means possible, so he chose walking. Eventually he worked his way up to walking seven miles to work and managed to lose nearly 200 pounds.

"I found I really liked it. And as I started to lose weight it got easier," Genter told AARP.

Even if you are not overweight like Genter was, walking regularly holds many benefits. For example, researchers have found that the exercise can help protect against memory loss and dementia. Additionally, it also reduces your chances of developing cardiovascular conditions and diabetes.

Experts say that those just starting out don't even have to do too much. You could go for as little as 30 minutes a day and still reap the benefits. Building on successes is also a big part of getting fit.

"Don't set a really large goal," Sharon Brangman, the chief of geriatric medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University, told AARP. "Set a small one first, like walking one block, then gradually add on to that."

Despite the importance of exercising, whether it be from walking or any other activity, many older adults are not heeding experts' advice. According to 2009 research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 38.5 percent of men and 31.1 percent of women between 65 to 74 exercise regularly.

Homeowners at Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch have opportunity to stay active in 2012. Along with the state-of-the-art fitness center and regularly-scheduled classes, the community also offers an indoor walking track so that you can get at least 30 minutes in regardless of the weather outside.

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