When Bob Martin started walking for exercise about six years ago, he could barely circle the Rochester Older Persons Commission (OPC) indoor walking track three times. Although he was tired and sore, the 79-year-old Rochester Hills resident stuck to his movement goals because he knew the health benefits of physical activity. Today, he’s on the walking track every day and averages an impressive 72 laps (18 laps around the track equals one mile).

“I love it (walking). I would come every day if I could,” he said. as long as I keep walking, I get good reports from my doctor.”

A brisk walk of 20 minutes a day could be enough to reduce a person’s risk of premature death, according to a study from the University of Cambridge. The study of more than 334,000 men and women found that twice as many deaths can be attributed to lack of physical activity than to obesity. And a modest increase in activity could make a big difference, the study concludes.

Research has suggested that just 20 minutes of brisk walking each day or the equivalent (which would burn 90-110 calories) would reduce a person’s risk of premature death.

“Walking has clear benefits for keeping our bodies healthy and our minds happy, regardless of age and fitness level,” said Dr. Asha Shajahan, family physician at Beaumont Health. “It’s the easiest and safest exercise for those who can walk. It boosts mental health by releasing endorphins which improve mood and physical health by improving blood circulation, stimulating weight loss and strengthening our bones and muscles.

For someone new to physical activity, Shajahan recommends walking 10 minutes a day to start with and working up to 10 minutes three times a day with a goal of 30 minutes a day. She said some people don’t have the stamina or time to walk for 30-45 minutes a day, so she recommends walking in increments.

Cooler temperatures shouldn’t keep walkers from moving. Alongside the OPC, several senior centers offer organized indoor walking on a climate-controlled track, which may be a good option for some walkers. “On the track it’s like wearing a good pair of tennis shoes because they absorb some of the shock (as opposed to walking on cement),” said Mandy Mullins, fitness and aquatics manager at the ‘UCI. “Also, if something happens, we are there. There is also the social aspect.

Although the Rochester Older Persons Commission (OPC) and other area senior centers have indoor walking tracks, walking outdoors in the fall and winter is a great way to stay physically fit, said Shajahan.

“Walking outside for even 10 minutes a day gives you exposure to the sun which gives you vitamin D which can help fight depression and fatigue. Additionally, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be improved by exposing themselves to the sun during the winter months,” Shajahan said.

When walking outdoors in cooler temperatures, be sure to dress in layers so your body is insulated. Cover your hands and ears, have shoes with good grip and avoid walking in freezing weather. Keep your cell phone with you in an emergency and wear bright colors or reflectors if it’s dark outside. It helps to warm up before going out in the cold by doing a handful of jumping jacks or marching in place, Shajahan said.

Several senior centers and community groups host guided outdoor walking groups, including the Shelby Township Senior Center, where a group of members meet in scenic township parks to walk together throughout the fall.

“Walking helps clear my mind after a stressful day. I especially like walking outdoors because I can hear the sounds of nature, enjoy the beauty of nature, and breathe in the fresh air. said Shajahan, who just returned from a hike in Zion National Park.

Upcoming walks scheduled for the Shelby Township Senior Center Walking Group include Whispering Woods Park on October 17, Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center on October 24 and River Bends Park on October 31. For more information about the walking group or upcoming meetups, visit shelbytwp.org/seniors.