A recent article by Elizabeth O’Brien starts by asking the question, “Can you walk a lap around a track?” The test is to walk around a track (one-quarter mile or 400 meters) in 15 minutes or less. One is to complete the lap unassisted, under his or her own power, without a walker. The test also requires no sitting down or leaning on something to rest.
Why does this matter? Several studies noted in the article show that a modest fitness level is related to independence for people over 65. Healthier seniors are less likely to need assisted living or higher levels of care, or at least they will postpone needing these services. They also will be able to get out and stay engaged in their communities-an important aspect of emotional health for most people. Another advantage is that more mobile people are stronger and less likely to suffer a serious fall. This alone can postpone the need for assisted living or higher levels of care.
In other words:
How does one achieve the goal? By getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise (which could be as simple as walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week). So what if you can’t currently pass the 1 lap test? Stephen Kritchevsky, director of the Center on Aging at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says that one can start at any age to improve their fitness and health levels. Kritchevsky says, “It’s never too early in your life to start exercising, and it’s never too late”. And, “The benefits are huge.”