How to stay happy and healthy as you age
As we age, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to continue enjoying an active, fulfilled life. You can do this by focusing on habits such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and staying socially active.
Stay socially active with friends and familyRemaining socially connected as you get older is extremely important in order to maintain your physical and mental health. People who are engaged in more social interaction are typically healthier individuals. Social interaction brings positive feelings and decrease stress. Seniors who are more socially active also have lower rates of Alzheimer’s.
One way to stay active socially is to try to participate in group activities. Getting out of the house to have a healthy meal, or taking a walk with a friend, are fantastic ways to maintain connections and friendships. Small group exercise classes will help you stick to an exercise program and create a sense of camaraderie.
Stay physically active with regular exerciseA sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain. There are a number of new studies that say too much sitting can be bad for our health and our waistline. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states on their website that “physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure.”
Exercising as we age is crucial in order to decrease our risk of heart disease. Exercise decreases the risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It can also help decrease fatigue and shortness of breath and enable you to maintain all the activities that you enjoy in your daily life. Not only does exercise help decrease the risk of heart disease, it also improves quality of life. Age related heart changes may occur such as arrhythmias, lipid profile changes, and insulin sensitivity, but these can be prevented by staying active. Lastly, exercise helps to reduce stress, which is correlated to an increased risk of heart issues.
Want to learn more about high blood pressure and arrhythmias? Check our guides ”Let’s talk about (abnormal) heart rhythm” and ”What is high blood pressure and what does it really mean?”
Start a routineFor those who want to begin an exercise program, a good place to start is with a walking routine or any gentle aerobic exercise, which will increase the heart rate without inducing too much strain. The American Heart Association recommends working up to150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging, running) or a combination of both every week.
Try cardio-based activitiesCardio is important for cardiac health and calorie burning, but you need more than just cardio workouts. An effective exercise plan includes cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises. Strength training will increase muscle mass, bone density and decrease body fat. It will also help to reverse sarcopenia.
Add strength exerciseStrength training or resistance training has numerous health benefits. It may lead to longer lasting blood pressure control. Resistance training helps to increase muscle mass, which will help in weight control. The resistance or strength-training program should include exercises that strengthen every major muscle group. This would include exercises such as squats, lunges, leg lifts, push-ups, planks and numerous core-strengthening exercises.
Avoid InjuriesMake sure to exercise to stay healthy – not get injured. As we age, our bodies undergo certain degenerative changes and elasticity changes that make the elderly more prone to injury during exercise. Balance may deteriorate and some of the medications that we may be on can affect our exercise performance. Use lighter weights for delicate body parts (shoulders) and avoid high-risk exercises. Make sure not to do the same movement too often, in order to avoid overuse injuries and avoid military-like exercise training.
Get better balanceFor older adults that struggle with balance, adding in balance exercises can go a long way to improve their coordination. If you suffer from back pain, try strengthening the muscles around the spine. Strength training will help decrease the effects of sarcopenia, decrease the risk of osteoporosis, and improve posture.
Start swimmingLastly, swimming is a good exercise for seniors. It gets the heart rate up and is gentle on an arthritic body. Swimming is a great mood-booster to ward off depression, especially if the pool is outdoors and the sun is out.
Be aware of slower metabolismUnfortunately, as we age, a slowed metabolism, hormonal changes and decreased muscle mass can lead to weight gain. Medical conditions can cause attempts at weight loss to be slow and taking medications such as antidepressants or corticosteroids may present an additional challenge.
You might not be exercising as frequently or as intensely as you need to for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you can take steps towards your goal by adding simple changes to your exercise routine. For example, add an incline while you are using the treadmill, alternate walking or running speeds, or try a dance class.
Check our article ”How to deal with a slowing metabolism as you get older” to learn more.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced dietWeight loss can require more than daily focus on exercise and diet. Your lifestyle has a huge impact on your ability to lose weight. Here are a few healthy eating and lifestyle modification tips:
Always read labels. This way you know what you are putting into your body. Try to eat fresh whole foods and stay away from processed products. Look out for high sodium and artificial ingredients.
Reduce white starches like refined grains and refined sugars in your diet. These foods may cause an increased appetite and cravings. Try swapping them for whole grains.
One strategy is to eat a greater quantity of low calorie density food, such as leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, fruits and soups. These foods contain a lot of water so there are fewer calories for the volume of food you are eating.
Cook more meals at home so you know exactly what is going in to your food. The tendency to eat pre-prepared meals outside of the home often increases as we age. Restaurant servings tend to serve us way too much food for one sitting, as well as adding excess sodium and sugar.
Just as important as it is to eat certain foods, it is equally important to avoid other foods. While many of these foods are an everyday part of most people’s diets, making the sacrifice to avoid them will be well worth it in the long run. Some foods to limit are ones that contain processed sugar like cookies, cakes, and candy.
Watch your sleepLack of sleep can cause a reduction in growth hormones and cause us to crave sugar and non-nutritious food. Insufficient sleep triggers a number of hormones that influence cravings and contribute towards a tendency for weight gain. In addition, a lack of sleep will leave you tired and unfocused for your workouts. Sleep is often overlooked, but an integral part of a fitness plan since a lot of recovery and repair happens while you rest each night.
Relax moreTry to minimize stress, as this can also affect your weight. Many people tend to turn to eating as a stress-coping mechanism. Too much cortisol, which is released when under stress, can slow your metabolism. One technique to reduce stress is relaxation breathing.
Travel somewhere new!When the kids leave the nest and you get closer to retirement there may be more time for travel. When I travel for work or for vacation I always bring my QardioArm to monitor my blood pressure. It is perfect for traveling because it is so easy to use and has a compact design. It also tracks my location and is extremely accurate. Taking my blood pressure is now simple, and measurement reminders can be set which is especially helpful when on the road.
For those with high blood pressure, it is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly. QardioArm allows you to do this accurately at home or while traveling. It can be paired with up to eight smartphones and give you the ability to share your results with family and your doctor. The use of the QardioArm gives you confidence and peace of mind in between your doctor appointments. I recommend you try it!
Guest post contributed by: Carol Michaels MBA, ACE, ACSM is a nationally recognized exercise specialist and the founder of Recovery Fitness®. She is a speaker for corporate wellness programs and has appeared on health related radio and television. Carol is also the author of Exercises for Cancer Survivors.
American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Biotechnology Information