There’s an expression in the medical community that if a pill offered all the benefits to your body that exercise does, it would be the greatest advancement in medical history. Unfortunately, studies show that over 28% of men and 33% of women over 65 remain physically inactive, which often leads to premature death.
Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case for you or your loved ones. Let’s talk about how to maintain active lifestyles in your senior years.
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The Benefits of Living Active Lifestyles in Old Age
Staying active is a challenge for many aging people, but a healthier lifestyle has too many benefits to pass up. Exercise helps lower the risk of common conditions including:
- Heart disease
- Type II Diabetes
- Certain cancers
The list goes on to include preventing falls and fall-related injuries. For an elderly person, exercise only becomes more important as time passes. Older people who exercise will also have an easier time with daily activities that include walking, bending, reaching, or other physical movements.
There are also several mental health benefits associated with exercise for seniors, including lowering the risk of conditions like depression and anxiety. Also, exercise is known to help boost confidence, cognitive abilities, and overall brain function.
Exercise is excellent for keeping seniors at a healthy weight, reducing the impacts of chronic diseases, and improving quality of life.
Overall, a well-balanced exercise routine including strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance is critical for healthy aging. If you have an inactive loved one (of any age), talk to them about some of these benefits and encourage them to continue staying active.
How to Start a Healthier Lifestyle in Old Age
As you probably know, there are even more benefits to exercising than we could put into one article. However, we mentioned some of the most important benefits in regards to aging. If you are looking to begin an exercise routine or program for you or a loved one, then here are some general rules to follow!
Set Realistic Goals
If you’re over 65, running your first marathon this year is unlikely to happen. Although your goals may be different now than they were 30 years ago, setting attainable ones is still just as important.
Maybe you want to work on your flexibility and balance so you can tie your shoes, walk for a full hour, or be able to lift objects over your head again. With the proper routine and consistency, these are excellent goals to set that you can achieve within a reasonable time and that will improve your overall quality of life.
Before beginning any type of workout routine, especially for seniors, it’s important to know your limits. An assessment by a professional like a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer is always recommended. Ask them for recommendations on exercises and frequency.
However, you can try to assess your abilities if you are already in good enough shape. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits, but it’s good to try out some bodyweight movements like stretches and see how you perform.
With any exercise routine, it’s okay to start as slow as possible and work your way up. To achieve the most benefit from exercise, it needs to be done over a longer period progressively, so don’t worry if you don’t feel “beat” after your first sessions.
Excessive work during the initial sessions won’t offer you much benefit anyway, as your body needs at least 4 weeks to begin adapting to your program. It’s okay to take it slow and get your body used to these new stressors, even if it feels too easy at first.
Always stretch before any routine, and take the first few sessions to warm up your body. Light exercise, stretching, and balance training are highly recommended for the first couple of weeks.
Start a Program
Fortunately, the recent rise of fitness classes and trends have made their way up to the older generations! Not only are there community-based programs designed to help seniors reach their fitness goals, but there are also personal trainers specializing in elderly people.
Ideally, seniors should exercise close to 150 minutes per week (2.5 hours) of aerobic exercise, which could be broken into 30 minutes 5 days a week or however you like. However, if you have a chronic condition that prevents you from achieving this amount, then aim for as much as your condition will allow.
Before jumping into a program, learn what it has to offer and how it will adapt to the needs of the individual. For example, with a personal trainer, the first session is usually an assessment of the trainee’s current capabilities.
Some senior fitness classes will involve submerging in water, which places less strain on joints and muscles, which is excellent for maintaining balance while still receiving the benefits of exercise. Water exercises are great for improving strength and cardiovascular endurance, and most programs will involve flex and balance training as well.
There are plenty of classes available across the country for older people who need help exercising, so look around and see if that’s right for you or your loved one.
Get the Right Equipment
If you will be working out in your home even for one session a week, then it’s important to have the right equipment to meet your needs. Handles to help you maintain balance, resistance bands, heart monitors, or anything else you need.
For example, you can try using step stools with handles to help you keep your balance while working on your leg strength or cardio exercises, or performing day-to-day tasks. Safety should always be the number one priority.
The equipment you use during old age is bound to be different from the equipment you may have used in the past, and that’s okay. You don’t need to be doing pull-ups to stay healthy. If you have a physical therapist or a doctor, ask them for suggestions on exercise equipment.
Follow Up With the Right Nutrition
The best advice for aging adults is to begin taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle as soon as possible. Although, exercise is only one component of living a healthier lifestyle. Active seniors should also work to improve their nutritional intake through proper dieting.
If seniors already have prepared healthy meals for them throughout the day, then it’s important to stock cabinets and refrigerators with healthy snacks at home.
Among the easiest switches to make for carbohydrates is transitioning to whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat. Whole grain bread or pasta offers far more nutritional value than enriched grain alternatives, and the taste is barely noticeable. Also, while not a grain, quinoa is an excellent alternative to certain grains like rice, and it has an excellent nutritional portfolio with a great taste.
Eating lean meats, fish, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), and low-fat dairy products (especially Greek yogurt) are excellent sources of protein, which is important for recovery and adapting to new stresses like exercise.
For fats, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are the best options. Secondarily, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil, and olive oil are good sources of healthy Omega fats. Also, eating nuts daily is directly linked to a longer life!
Other than the macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins), seniors need to eat a wide variety of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The keyword is variety.
Instead of discussing all of the different nutrients, their functions, and their sources, we can make it a lot easier. Eat a variety of colors.
In plant-based foods, color is a good indicator of nutritional value. Different colors essentially mean different nutritional portfolios, so the more color on your plate, the more nutrition there likely is. Because of this, salads and soups are two of the best ways to get the most out of every meal, and they make for delicious side dishes!
Throughout the week, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, mixed with whole grains, nuts, and seeds is the best way to ensure proper nutritional intake.
Now that you know some of the benefits and how to get started with your active lifestyles, the sooner you get your body moving, the longer and better of a life you will have. Remember, exercise shouldn’t be a chore, it should be something to look forward to!
Check out the rest of our blog for more information and get back to enjoying the things you love!