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Count your steps for better fitness after 50

Walking Winnie from Wynola
Walking Winnie from Wynola
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

DEAR JIM: I’m getting up there in years – I’ll be 83 next month – but I don’t have any major health issues, and I try to stay active by walking daily for at least 30 minutes in the local mall or around my neighborhood when weather permits. But, I never know just how much I should walk to be beneficial. Is there some kind of formula that would help me know how much to do or when to stop? WALKING WINNIE IN WYNOLA

DEAR WINNIE: Don’t worry so much about when to stop because, by now, you probably have a pretty good sense of how to pace yourself. When you feel yourself tiring, it’s time to stop and rest. However, a good rule of thumb for determining how much you should walk is by counting your steps – NOT just steps that you take during your daily walks but during the entire day.

Just pick up an inexpensive pedometer at your local sporting goods store (some pharmacies and most discount stores carry them too) and let it do the counting for you as you go about your day-to-day activities. Most healthy older adults average 2,000-9,000 steps a day with lower averages for those who might be relatively sedentary or have physical limitations, so that should give you a benchmark to follow. At your age and apparent activity level, you are probably averaging at least somewhere in the middle.

But, when you take your daily walk, reset your pedometer and try to walk another 1000-1500 steps. This will boost your weekly average and help you to maintain optimal health. I don’t know your particular cadence, so just walk at your own pace depending on how you feel that day.

Steps are a fundamental component of walking, but be sure you have comfortable, supportive footwear to maintain proper balance and prevent injuries. You might also find a good walking buddy – if you haven’t already – to make your walks more interesting. Keep on “steppin,” Winnie!

Jim Evans is a 46-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and internationally-recognized fitness consultant.