You may be over 50, but you don’t have to be over having fun and living your best, healthy life! Actually, as we age it’s even more important to get started on healthier habits and ditch the bad ones. Your early to mid-50s are when biochemical changes start to occur, leading to the onset of cancer and other chronic illness. Now is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, assess your lifestyle and make senior health a priority!
Senior Health and Feeling Great
As we age we encounter more aches and pains, but there are so many positive aspects of growing older: Wisdom, self-discovery, and maturity. Regardless of how we feel, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, take up a new activity, or pursue a new career. The key is to keep moving and find ways to incorporate exercise and healthier habits into your life.
Healthy aging in midlife and even into your senior years isn’t rocket science. The body is a self-healing, self-regulating system and performs best when it’s on a regular schedule. The foundation for senior health begins with routine habits that are based around nutrition, exercise, and prevention.
Learn to Manage Stress
Manage stress through exercise and other activities like yoga and mindfulness or a creative outlet. Research shows that a life of stress is really hard on the body, especially chronic stress. Patients who have higher levels of baseline stress are more prone to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Get An Annual Physical
Preventative screenings can save lives by catching cancer and chronic illnesses early. Annual check-ups and other preventative screenings should include pap smears, colonoscopies, mammograms, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.
Get Enough Sleep
Embrace routine, especially when it comes to sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of regular, uninterrupted sleep. Follow a schedule in regards to going to bed, waking up and eating meals. Sleep can also regulate hormones like insulin and cortisol, which helps prevent disease.
Focus On Nutrition
At every stage in life it’s vital to eat a heart-healthy diet, more fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. You should avoid or limit starchy, fried and processed foods and too much red meat. Reduce salt and sugar, increase healthy fats such as fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids, and skip anything with GMOs or ingredients you can’t pronounce. It’s definitely the time to kick bad habits like excessive drinking and smoking, too.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and Keep Moving
Make regular exercise a habit, or at least find ways to be more active. Studies have found a link between a generally sedentary lifestyle, meaning hours upon hours of sitting, and increased levels of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and total mortality.
For many people, it can be very overwhelming to make multiple lifestyle changes at once. We recommend you start by focusing on one area of your life that you can improve. Exercise may be one of the easiest and best options. Think about this trifecta of benefits – heart health, combat weight gain, and boost endorphins.
1. Schedule time to exercise and switch it up.
The key to long-term exercise is not only making it a priority but doing activities that are social and fun. Playing tennis or pickleball with a friend, walking the dog, biking a local trail, swimming, gardening, dancing and playing team sports count toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week.
2. Recruit a friend or join a class.
You’re more likely to exercise when you have a partner or group counting on you, plus it’s a great chance to make new friends and try something new.
3. Sign up for a competition.
Whether it’s a marathon or bike race, training for a competition ups the challenge and reward.
4. Try the 10-minute motivation rule.
Start with 10 minutes and see if you’re motivated to keep going. Oftentimes getting started is half the battle.
5. Break it up into smaller chunks
Research shows that 10 minutes of exercise has benefits, so incorporate activity throughout the day. Use a break at work to walk laps or climb stairs, do a set of squats, planks, and pushups during TV commercials, or try a 10-minute exercise video.
6. Focus on how you feel.
After you exercise do you have more energy, more strength, a better mood or more peaceful sleep? The scale isn’t the only measure of success.
7. Write it down.
Keep a journal of your daily activities and food/beverage intake. Be mindful of what you eat, and realistic about how many calories you burn. Snacks, sodas, and desserts have hidden calories or are often overlooked. A journal can reveal patterns of overindulging, emotional eating or chronic fatigue and depression.
8. Enjoy a rest day.
Don’t beat yourself up if you slack off for a day. While consistency is important, adequate hydration, sleep and recovery time matter too.
9. Celebrate small milestones.
The scale may have stalled, but maybe you’ve lost inches, regulated blood sugar, can run a mile, or noticed new muscles. every little bit counts.
Healthy Aging Starts With a Healthy Mindset
It’s hard to change bad habits for healthier ones, much less sustain them. The key is to also switch your mindset: Look at it as a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix. Many changes cost nothing and require only common sense and some self-awareness. Smile more, stand when you can, sleep at least eight hours, take a daily walk, and pursue your passions!
There is no magic pill for senior health and longevity, and, unfortunately, we can’t turn back the hands of time. But when it comes to living a long, satisfying life, it’s simple – the things you do today affect your tomorrow.
Our physical therapists are here for you, whenever you need us. If you’re having a difficult time getting started with an exercise routine and living healthy because of pain or an injury, we can help! Find a clinic near you and get in touch with us today!