Staying Healthy as Seniors

A Quick Diet & Exercise Guide for Seniors Looking to Maximize Their Overall Well-Being

Taking the time to focus on your physical and mental health is not a young person’s game — in fact, it’s not really a game at all. As you age, things like a good diet, proper exercise, and good mental health practices both increase in importance and, fortunately, have a much greater impact on your overall health. In other words, seniors get more bang for their buck than any other age group, which means simple lifestyle changes can have far-reaching positive benefits. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a quick guide on where to begin.

It All Begins with What You Eat

There’s no amount of exercise, meditation, medication, or good thoughts that can lift you out of a poor diet. If you want to take control of your overall health as you navigate your golden years, it all has to start with how you fuel your body (and mind, for that matter).

You’re not looking to “go on a diet” — you’re looking to make a lifestyle change that promotes everyday healthy eating. Diets in the traditional weight-loss sense don’t really work anyway, and as a senior, you don’t want to deprive your body of nutrients under the guise of slimming down.

A basic healthy diet consists of mostly fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates (whole grains) with some lean protein (beans, legumes, fish, chicken) mixed in. Also, you’ll want to limit your sugar, red meat, and alcohol consumption. Seniors can also benefit from adding specific foods to help with things such as bone density, joint health, and vitamin repletion. This includes, but is not limited to, foods rich in calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and iron.

But Don’t Forget Hydration

While you will get a good amount of water from a healthy diet, it’s vital that you focus on your overall hydration. Seniors — whether due to medications, natural decreases in thirst triggers, or loss of kidney function — tend to suffer from dehydration more than younger people. Making sure you get your eight cups of water per day will help your body and mind stay strong (but listen to your body above all else).

Senior-Friendly Exercise Is Almost as Important as Diet

If your diet is king, then exercise is the queen. Adding just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to your daily routine (or at least 2.5 hours total per week) will help improve the quality and quantity of your golden years. This is a fact, not a theory. Another fact: Seniors who exercise spend 25 percent less time injured or disabled. Here’s the rub: Reductions in one’s strength and stamina as you age are often caused by a reduction in physical activity. And then once you feel weaker, your activity level tends to drop even more.

Break this unhealthy cycle by adding some senior-friendly exercises into your daily life. These are exercises that stimulate your heart and other muscles but don’t unduly burden your bones and joints. Try swimming, resistance band training (you can buy a set for $17.25), yoga, Pilates, and rowing. There are plenty of other indoor exercises that can help you reach your goals as well.

If you can, however, try getting at least some of your exercise outdoors. For example, golfing, tennis, walking/jogging, and hiking gives you the added benefits of fresh air and sunlight. The combination of serotonin/oxytocin release from exercise and the stimulation of vitamin D production from the sunlight will give your brain a boost as well.

Even working around the house can provide your daily dose of exercise. Just don’t push yourself too hard. The risk of injury increases as you get older, when it comes to home maintenance tasks like house cleaning and lawn mowing. If certain chores are too difficult for you, hire a professional to get the work done. This way, you can look after your physical health by focusing only on exercise that will benefit you, not harm you. If you live in Bowie, MD, the average cost of a maid service is $132-$234.

The good thing about first focusing on diet, hydration, and exercise in your quest to take control of your overall well-being is that moderate improvements in these areas tend to beget other improvements at a rapid rate. In other words, start eating healthy and getting the right kind of exercise frequently enough and you’ll start a rolling snowball of positive wellness!

Veggie Photo by Unsplash

About the guest Author:
Jason Lewis is a personal trainer by day that specializes in helping seniors stay fit, healthy and injury-free. To make this mission possible, he created StrongWell to share tips and insights with fellow senior caregivers.

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