This article was written to compliment our Definitive Guide to Choosing a Walker to provide guidelines on when is the right time to start using a walker.
Good reasons for using a walker
The primary reasons you might want to start using a walker or rollator are to help you walk independently with less pain and discomfort, increase your safety and prevent falls, improve the distance you can walk, help overcome injury, or allow you to walk and carry objects at the same time. Most people report being happier and gaining self-confidence due to their increased mobility and independence when using a walker.
What is the purpose of a walker?
A walker works by giving you a wider base of support. This improves your balance and makes you a lot more stable. It also allows you to take some weight off your legs and use your arms to assist bearing weight.
With less weight on your lower body and less energy used trying to maintain balance, a walker can dramatically improve your endurance and ability to walk long distances or spend more time out and about.
While no one dreams of having a walker as a kid, if you have suffered injury, illness, or disease… if you are have troubles walking without assistance … or if you’ve had a fall recently… you will most likely benefit from a walker and find it brings increased self-reliance and a greater quality of life.
When should you use a walker?
Here are 10 reasons you might want to consider using a walker:
- You have a fear of falling. If you have had a fall recently, or even a close call, the fear of falling can become debilitating. A walker can provide reassurance and help you regain your confidence.
- You have balance issues or walk with your feet wide apart. As we get older it becomes harder to balance and stay upright. We can develop “postural sway” and start walking with our feet wider apart, which is the bodies attempt to remain stable. But this puts you at an increased risk of falling. A walker provides a solid base of support to help balance and avoid a fall.
- You have lost strength. If you struggle to stand up from a chair or if your legs tire out quickly then a walker can bring much needed support.
- You get out of breath easily. Do you tire quickly or have shortness of breath when walking? A walker can help preserve your energy and increase the time and distance you are able to walk.
- You can’t bear all your weight on your legs. If you have pain or weakness in one or both legs and are unable to put your full weight on them, a walker can help you by allowing you to put some of your weight on your arms.
- You have pain or discomfort walking. Over time the aches and pains in your joints and muscles can build up to a point where it’s simply uncomfortable to walk anymore. A walker can reduce (or even eliminate) this pain by taking some of the pressure off your body when walking.
- You are unable to walk and carry things at the same time. A large part of being independent is being able to carry and move objects from one place to another. Whether it’s your dinner from the kitchen to the dining room, or bringing the shopping home, if you’re unable to do this then you must still rely on others. A walker with a seat and basket or bag provides an excellent place to carry these types of items with ease.
- You are recovering from surgery. If you’ve recently undergone surgery you might not have the strength or ability to walk without pain. A walker can bring much needed freedom while you recover.
- You are recovering from illness, disease, or a stroke. If you’ve suffered a debilitating illness and spent some time in hospital it’s likely your muscles have atrophied due to lack of activity. A walker can help you re-build your muscles and get up and moving again much sooner.
- You have Arthritis, Parkinson’s, Osteoporosis, or Multiple Sclerosis. If you have any condition that affects your balance, muscles, coordination, or simply makes it painful to walk, then a walker can be a life-saver.
10 reasons for using a walker infographic
And finally, here is the general rule we go by…
If you ever feel like you are becoming socially isolated because you are unable to walk sufficiently to complete your day to day activities, then a good quality walker or rollator is perhaps one of the first investments you should make. It can very quickly improve your mobility, keep you socially active, and prevent you from being alone.
Not sure where to start? We have written a number of in-depth buying guides including the best lightweight walkers, top tall walkers, and upright walkers for seniors. You can find the entire list here.