We all age. And as we age, we find that daily, simple tasks become just a little harder. The risk for disease increases with age along with hearing and vision loss. With aging also comes fatigue. It can be difficult as we get older to stay as active as we used to, for multiple reasons. Incremental changes, like these, to our health can begin to creep up on us if we don’t pay attention.
For these reasons, it is important to stay active, eat well, and take care of ourselves as we age. Last Wednesday, May 25th, was National Senior Health and Fitness Day, which takes place on the last Wednesday in May each year.
This day was set aside to raise awareness for the importance of health and fitness activities for senior citizens in our nation. The healthier we live now, the healthier we’ll be later in life.
As our bodies change as we age, we develop different needs. Eating healthy and providing your body with the proper nutrition is important to avoid the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In addition, according to the National Institute of Health’s Senior Health website, eating well “Promotes Energy”, “Can Affect Weight”, and “Affect[s] Digestion.”
Our metabolism slows down as our body gets older, so it’s important to drink lots of water, eat regularly and in moderation, and consume whole foods. According to WedMD, eating a variety of food groups is a good way to make sure your body is getting what it needs. These include fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and water. An article from the National Council on Aging specifically recommends that, “A healthy meal should include:
- Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
- Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple)
- Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)
- Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)”
Another way to track what you’re eating is to read the nutrition facts label on the food products you buy. The National Council on Aging says, “find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.” If you’re not able to decipher nutrition labels very well, our YMCA’s offer nutrition counseling with registered dietitians and National Diabetes Prevention Programs to help individuals of any age learn about healthy eating and how to make better eating choices.
In addition to eating healthy as we age, it’s important to stay active. According to an article by Judy Wilson on LIVESTRONG.com, “Exercise can have profound effects on a senior citizen’s vitality and overall well-being.” In fact, “Staying active can help to reduce pain and stiffness, improve energy levels, and increase strength.”
There are four types of exercises that benefit senior citizens the most, according to LIVESTRONG.com; these are: Endurance, Strengthening, Stretching, and Balance.
Endurance exercises do not require high intensity training exertions and “it is gentle while being highly beneficial to the body,” according to LIVESTRONG.com. Endurance exercises include things like going on long walks, riding a bike, or swimming.
According to the National Institute of Health, it is recommended to try and do “strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week for 30 minutes at a time.” This will help your body to slowly build muscle and keep muscle to help perform various tasks independently.
Flexibility is strengthened through stretching. According to an article from the Huffington Post, completing basic stretches on a daily basis, “can greatly improve your flexibility, as well as enhance your balance, posture and circulation, relieve pain and stress, and prevent injuries.” Stretching goes a long way!
Maintaining balance as we age can greatly reduce your risk of injury from tripping and falling, as well. Bones become more fragile, so making sure to incorporate balancing exercises into your fitness routine is highly important. According to MayoClinic, various techniques such as shifting your weight, standing on one leg, and Tai Chi are great ways to improve your balance.
These 4 areas of fitness are important in maintaining independence and preventing injuries as we age. Though these fitness areas and healthy eating tips are focused specifically on the older generation, starting a healthy lifestyle is important for any age. The sooner you get into a healthy eating and fitness routine, the healthier your body will be when you’re older.
Aging is inevitable. Take steps to improve your health in what you eat and what you do today. Not only it is important to exercise, but cutting out things like smoking and improving your mental health are huge milestones in your overall healthy and well-being – whether you’re 65 and older or just turning 18.
At the YMCA, we put great interest and care in the lives of senior citizens in our community. In fact, our branches offer programs specifically for Active Older Adults to work out together, eat together, and fellowship together at our branches, year-round. If you would like to learn more about the events and fitness programs we offer, click on the links below!
– Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator