Is Walking Is Best Exercise for Older Women?
While walking is one of the healthiest and most popular exercises, it also results in more trips to the emergency room for women than any other non-equipment exercise, a University of Arkansas study revealed.
The study, conducted by associate health science professors Ches Jones and Lori Turner, has been accepted for publication in the summer 2005 issue of the “Journal of Women and Aging.” Jones presented the results at the 7th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion held recently in Vienna, Austria.
Jones and Turner studied data gathered by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). The NEISS compiles reports from over 100 emergency rooms across the nation, then estimates the frequency of each type of injury.
The study looked at data from 851 reported injuries from 1994 to 2001. The researchers focused on emergency room visits among women age 65 years and older, who were injured while doing non-equipment exercise. Non-equipment exercise refers to any activity done without equipment, such as walking, aerobics, hiking, swimming, stretching, yoga or tai chi.
“We looked at how people exercise without equipment,” Jones said. “We asked, ‘How can people get injured that way?’”
Walking was the most common non-equipment activity cited in the study and also was linked most frequently to injury. Falls were the major cause of injuries, according to Jones. “Environmental hazards were a big issue — like when you’re walking or hiking, and you encounter obstacles such as street curbs, rocks, holes and even animals,” he said.
Jones was surprised at the number of non-equipment injuries, which increased each year, despite adjustments for population increases. He speculated that contributing factors include increases in activity, more active people living longer, better health care, and health care physicians prescribing activity to patients, among other things.
The number of falls among older women is a concern due to the increased risk for fractures among that age group. “It brings up the question, ‘Is walking the best activity for this age group?’” Jones said. “It is obviously popular and healthy, but is it the best?”
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