Getting and staying fit as we age should be a priority in all our lives. A commitment to healthy living can prevent a majority of the chronic health problems leading to disability and death in older adults. Common diseases and health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and emphysema are less common in persons who choose a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and exercise.
Regular exercise can help boost energy, help you maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain. Exercise can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body, it’s also good for your mind, mood, and memory. Research has shown that physical activity may prevent dementia and slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. For the best results, pair aerobic workouts with strength and flexibility training. There are plenty of resources available to help you find the right exercises to motivate you. For group classes, contact your local senior center or YMCA. Yoga is another great option for low impact exercise with huge benefits for both the mind and the body.
Good nutrition is also important as we age. Caloric and nutrient requirements change with every life stage. Common conditions affected by nutrition include diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and malnutrition. Strive for 4-5 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fresh fruit a day to help you meet your vitamin and mineral needs. The importance of dietary protein cannot be underestimated in the diets of older adults; inadequate protein intake contributes to a decrease in reserve capacity, increased skin fragility, decreased immune function, poorer healing, and longer recuperation from illness. About 25-30% of your dietary intake should be protein. Remember, protein does not have to come from meat. Beans, soy, dairy, nuts and seeds, and peanut butter are all good sources of protein. Complex carbs and fiber are also important in our diet. Seniors are advised to get 45 to 65 percent of calories, or about 130-200 grams, from carbohydrates. Most carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables; legumes; and whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa. As we age, glucose tolerance declines. Complex carbohydrates are good because they help regulate glucose and they don’t result in an insulin spike that we get with sugary foods such as soda, cake and candy. Complex carbs also have fiber. A high-fiber diet helps to lower cholesterol, stimulate intestinal motility and prevent constipation. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Together with a regular exercise, a good diet will help you get fit and stay fit!
Denise Hulett is a nutrition, personal trainer and owner of Restorative Fitness and Nutrition in Sugar Land, Texas, part of the Restorative Center. Denise has a master’s in health and nutrition education and focuses on helping clients use nutrition to enhance their lives and their health. For more information, visit www.restorativefitnessandnutrition.com.