Walking Your Way to a long, healthy life: Lessons from Dr. Alan Poisner - Episode 27

Dr. Alan Poisner, at the age of 88, stands as a testament to the power of walking. He started competitive racewalking at 50…yes, 38 years ago, he has since earned an impressive list of achievements, securing five gold medals in international competitions and setting records at the National Senior Games. But his expertise isn't just in winning races – it's also in understanding the profound impact walking has on health and fitness, particularly among older adults.

Dr. Poisner graciously shared his invaluable insights with Harvard Health on starting and maintaining a walking routine. His advice is both practical and motivational, from decades of experience and a deep understanding of the science of walking. Here are some of the highlights:

Set a dedicated time for walking. Making it a part of your daily activities can help make walking an enjoyable habit. Varying the settings – from nature trails to tracks or treadmills – serves different workout purposes, whether for pleasure or structured exercise. If you’re looking for a good place to squeeze in a few extra steps during your busy day, try taking a 10 minute walk after lunch and dinner. 

Remember to hydrate. Walking is cardio, and we often forget to drink enough fluid. "I hydrate before and after walking. If the walk is an hour or more, I carry a water bottle and drink regularly."

Take it easy. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” When beginning a walking program, try not to rush into increasing your speed or distance, which can lead to injury. "Focus on weekly, incremental increases in duration and intensity,” says Dr. Poisner.

Make it social. Dr. Poisner recommends joining a walking group as a way to make friends, have more fun, and keep you motivated on those days when you just don’t feel like it. If you can’t find a walking group in your area, consider signing up for a race. It's a great way to get some exercise, support a cause, and connect with new people. He recommends looking for races offering 5k (which is about 3.1 miles) or even 1 mile “fun run” options.  

Most important, remember these two rules: Don't push too hard and have fun!

May we all have Dr. Poisner’s vitality at age 88. He is a great example that age doesn’t have to stop us from embracing an active and fulfilling lifestyle.


Solan, M. (2023). Walking advice from a master walker. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/walking-advice-from-a-master-walker

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Photo by  Lukas Rychvalsky