The Importance of Health and Fitness as We Get Older
While aging may not be something everyone is looking forward to, it is still a significant event your body goes through, and something you need to be prepared for. Just as you’d prep for a marathon or get your body ready to have a baby, you need to be proactive as you approach your later years.
If you are fortunate enough to address aging early enough, with an educated, positive point of view, you’ll not only be in the position to actually look forward to it but to lavish in it with strength, joy and an inner light you simply won’t be able to contain.
I. Understand The Changes
To address the changes your body faces as you age, you first must understand them. It’s not simply a matter of showing up for your 50th birthday party and accepting the fact that you’ve reached midlife; rather, it’s about realizing what your body is going through and how you can best accommodate the metamorphosis:
Your Cardiovascular Curriculum
After a certain age, the heart rate slows, vessels and arteries tighten up, and your entire cardiovascular system has to work much harder to achieve what once came easily. Among other issues, high blood pressure could become a problem for you.
* Get proper exercise and sleep, stave off stress and incorporate the healthiest elements into your daily diet.
Skeletal and Muscular Maintenance
Unfortunately, bones lose mass and density as people age, leaving them more vulnerable to injury. If that’s not enough, muscles may become weaker and less flexible – leaving you less physically capable than you were in younger years.
* Add more calcium, vitamin D, and other essential elements to your diet, along with asking your doctor what you can do to enrich your body with what it might lose. While you’re at it, talk about the exercise you need, too!
*Take up a strength training program to prevent bone loss and maintain muscle integrity. Simple bodyweight moves and core work can achieve this goal. Pilates and Yoga classes incorporate this type of exercise.
While nothing is set in stone, you may notice a change in your memory and ability to learn and adapt to new situations. In fact, according to the Director for the Center for Aging and Cognition at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, memory decline started in your 20s and had been going downhill ever since!
* Your brain health is directly related to a healthy diet, effective exercise, sufficient sleep, stress management and challenging yourself continuously. Thus, even if you retire, you need to keep using your body, from head to toe, inside and out, in the most optimal ways.
II. Raise Your Levels Of Health And Fitness
Once you fully realize how your body is changing, you can then make the adaptations that will leave you fully prepared to enter the new age in greater health and with a stronger commitment to fitness. While this may differ somewhat from person to person, taking into account genetics, existing health conditions and even the place you choose to live, there are things everyone can do to improve their quality of life as they advance in years:
1. Choose simple, basic foods prepared exclusively by Mother Nature. People who age healthy tend to eat well, but that doesn’t mean they spend a fortune for food, in fact, picking vegetables from your backyard is one of the best things you could do for your health, even though it’s one of the most cost-effective methods of grocery shopping.
At this time in life, it’s excruciatingly important that you limit sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fatty acids) and artificial chemicals. Although it’s the right thing to do at any age, these things will clog your arteries, congest your heart, pack on the pounds, corrupt your liver and so forth, now more than ever.
2. Limit your portion sizes. You may have been able clear your over-filled plate and go for seconds a few years back, but doing so now will certainly work against you. Since your metabolism is different, your portion sizes should be as well. You also may not be as active, thus, you’ll want to have fewer calories to work off after meals.
Try eating like the Japanese, who make a habit of putting their forks down a few minutes before finishing. Eating like this gives them time to recognize when they’re full so that they can avoid over-eating. It may surprise you to discover that you’ve had enough, long before your plate is empty.
3. Nibble healthy snacks throughout the day, to avoid feeling famished. Healthy snacking throughout the day can be a wonderful habit to regulate your metabolism, without either feeling too hungry or overdoing it at mealtimes: Enjoy small portions when you sit down to eat, but keep your body fueled all day long with healthy snacks, like nuts and fruits. Use water to hydrate, as well as to take the edge off hunger between meals. You may notice a drop in weight after implementing this habit, along with positive changes in your complexion.
4. Make a point of taking a walk every single day. Getting fresh air, seeing the neighborhood and getting the blood flowing are absolute necessities as you age. Start the day with a quick, refreshing walk or end it with a languid, lazy stroll.
5. Incorporate a reasonable exercise such as a Pilates for seniors class or low impact workout routine into your weekly schedule. Depending on your current physical condition, a moderate, consistent workout routine may be in order, to help you achieve the most out of life as you get on in years. Ask your doctor about jogging, swimming or playing tennis a few times each week, or whether you’d benefit more from a strict workout at a gym. Whatever is best for you, make a point of doing it, and enjoying it.
6. Maintain a positive outlook. Science has proven that your perception of situations can change them, primarily meaning if you believe this is going to be a great day; it will be. Apply that philosophy to everything in life and you will feel happier and in turn, be healthier. Depression is all too common as people age; it significantly impacts both physical and mental health.
7. Avoid people who bring you down. Although you can’t always avoid toxic people, the more upbeat, positive people you surround yourself with, the lighter and more optimistic you will be yourself. Say “Hello!” in passing to those who tend to make you feel negative, rather than to allow them to get close.
8. Learn to manage stress effectively. Stress at any age will adversely affect you; however, it is particularly dangerous if you tend to have high blood pressure or are otherwise physically compromised. One of the last things you want to do as you get older is to allow stress to dictate your emotional ebb and flow. It will never be positive or healthy.
9. Take the time to do things YOU enjoy. You may have spent most of your adult life taking care of children, your partner, and other people, but now is the time to satisfy yourself. For example, if you’ve had a novel in you head for the past decade, begging to be put on paper, do it! Try painting, piano, Pilates or Tai Chi – whatever makes your soul sing. In many cultures, this is the time you are at your most creative and capable, so let that flow in the form of hobbies, helping others or saving some small part of the world.
10. Get regular checkups and address health issues early. Of course, nobody enjoys going to the doctor’s office, especially when you have more aches, pains and other issues to report than ever before, but it’s very important to stay one step ahead of potential problems. Ask your primary physician to refer you to specialists, to get to the real root of health issues, rather than just sweeping them under the rug with medications or attributing them to normal “aging.” Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you should simply accept the problems you’re facing – on the contrary: They deserve the utmost attention now.
III. Take Control Over Your Life
Aging happens to everyone, but people deal with it differently. You could feel weak and powerless, or you could feel more in control than ever before. It all depends on how you approach the impending changes and in turn, adapt to them.
If you can maintain your health and fitness, keep order and positive influences in your life, you have a clear path to feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat. On the other hand, if you allow issues that affect your health to go untreated, fail to modify your diet and exercise routines and let stress rule, you’re bound to feel like you’re at the mercy of a merciless aging process.
Although aging may come with many changes, it does not need to be a time of aches, pains, complaints and constraints. It should be the time when you’re at your best, able to enjoy life to the fullest and really feel like you’re on top of the world.