Are you ready to start living your healthiest life? Getting active is a key part of enjoying your senior years, but exercise is just the beginning. What you eat matters, too. Do you have a handle on stress? What about fulfilling hobbies and a strong social circle? Let’s look at a healthy lifestyle for aging well.
Aging can make it tough to stay active and at a healthy weight. We tend to lose muscle strength over the years. This affects the whole body including the heart muscles. In fact, an average 70-year-old’s heart pumps half as much blood as a 25-year-old.
Alongside that muscle loss, seniors may deal with lost bone density, reduced flexibility, and poor balance. They tend to fall more often and are more seriously hurt by a fall.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that exercise can slow or even reverse many of these physical changes. So what should you be doing and how much? Start by walking…to your doctor’s office or local urgent care for a chat. Your physician may suggest a fitness plan that includes items such as these:
- Taking a stroll around the neighborhood.
- Doing laps at the pool or taking an aqua-aerobics class.
- Hopping on your exercise bike.
- Increasing muscle mass with resistance band routines.
- Challenging your balance and flexibility with yoga and Tai Chi.
Now, how much exercise should you be doing? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that you get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity every week. In this case, ‘moderate’ means that you’re breathing faster but can still hold a conversation.
Finally, remember to build recovery time into your routine. It can take seniors longer to bounce back from activities, but this downtime is productive. You build muscle during recovery, not during the exercise itself. Listen to your body and take a day off when you need it.
Experiment With Your Diet
Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of many health concerns including diabetes and cardiac issues. Being underweight is little better, raising your risk of slow healing times and blood pressure issues. Sometimes seniors can struggle more than other age groups to hit that healthy weight zone in the middle, especially if they become less physically active. As we age our sense of taste or taste on food may change naturally, and we also need fewer calories to maintain the same weight. An aging body may also not absorb enough key vitamins and nutrients.
The advice for seniors with food is not much different from any other generational advice. Try to find healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods. Experiment with herbs, spices, and cooking styles as you explore delicious new dishes. Change habits, experiment, allow change to occur, as long as its beneficial.
While we’re at it, don’t forget about water. Many seniors find their sense of thirst weakens as they age. You may be taking medication that can leave you dry-mouthed and dehydrated. You may already be using some of the latest wearable or wireless technology to remind when to take that medication, so add some reminders to take a water break too.
And speaking of technology, digital aids for seniors are increasingly useful to help seniors stay connected with their community and medical networks, while devices such as smart watches that monitor health signs, and smart home alert systems for fall detection are proliferating. Just check the medical alert system review sites to pick and choose the best combinations of electronic helpers for your preferred lifestyle.
The Mental Game
Even seniors with significant health challenges can be very satisfied with their lives when they actively work to support healthy brain function, are proactive about mood and stress, and devote time to hobbies and their social network.
Your brain has a big influence on your emotional state and how clearly you can think, learn, and remember. Exercise, especially outdoors, benefits the whole body including your brain. It triggers the release of endorphins which lift the mood, relieve stress, and act as natural painkillers.
This boost to your alertness and emotions, along with fewer aches and pains, can prime you to get the most out of every day. You’ll be more present with loved ones and able to give more to your favorite hobbies and activities. You may also sleep better, which offers long-term benefits to the body and brain’s health.
If you’re struggling with stress or the blues, you may need a little outside help. This could involve talking to your doctor or therapist. You might also benefit from working with other professionals. For instance, if you’re stressed about money, a financial adviser could help you create a new household budget.
If you’ve found yourself lonely and in a rut, see if you can reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with. You can also try something new and maybe make new friends through volunteering, church, veterans’ groups, and local clubs.
A Healthy Life is a Balanced Life
Your health isn’t defined by any one number, whether it’s the number on the scale or the number of hobbies you’ve taken up since retirement. For a long and fulfilling life, aim for balance. Get active by getting out in the world and celebrating what your body can accomplish. Enjoy nutritious meals that taste great. Work hard on your hobbies and passions, but don’t forget about quality time with the people you love.