Wednesday, May 29th was National Senior Health & Fitness Day. While health and fitness are important at every age and every day, making efforts to stay active and promote wellness as we age is especially important. Exercise can support healing, disease prevention, increased balance and stability, improve quality of life, and even reduce all-cause mortality. Yet, you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to enjoy the benefits of health and fitness. Explore some small changes you can make to feel better both now and into the future below.
5 Practical Health Tips for Seniors:
Pursue a Variety of Exercises
Being physically active doesn’t have to mean engaging in a heart-pounding sweat session every day. In fact, there are many types of physical activity you can perform for the following benefits:
- Aerobic activity to keep your cardiovascular system functioning well
Consider taking a brisk walk or working in the garden to get your heart rate up. If you’re interested in trying an aerobic workout without the risk of falls, consider an aquatic exercise program.
- Strength moves to maintain muscle mass
While you can lift soup cans, or a light set of handheld weights to increase strength, there are also many strength moves you can perform with your own body weight. Seated arm and leg raises, for example, can help to boost strength.
- Balance exercises to reduce fall risks
Many community fitness centers offer balance programs designed specifically for older adults, but you can also explore at-home exercises like standing on one foot for increasing periods of time (with a support system within reach).
- Activities to increase flexibility and reduce stiffness
Simple stretching routines such as touching your toes or overhead reaches can keep muscles limber while reducing stiffness. You might also consider trying a gentle yoga class or a guided video at home.
Warm Up & Cool Down
No matter how light your exercise may seem, it’s always a good idea to warm up and cool down thoroughly. To prevent pulling a muscle or any other sports-related injury, perform dynamic stretches like overhead reaches, twists, and toe touches to get the body warm before beginning an activity. Once your exercise is completed, gently stretch the muscles you used to cool down.
Keep in Touch with Others
Oftentimes we think of physical health when it comes to wellness, but mental health is equally as deserving of our attention. Isolation and loneliness can be common in senior populations, which is why older adults should make a point to stay active in social networks and the community. While social media platforms make it easier for elderly individuals to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, it’s also important to spend time in-person, too. Reach out to family members and friends often to stay in touch. Explore community events for seniors in your area, and consider volunteering for a local cause that speaks to you.
Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods
While exercising is a great way to stay healthy at every age, the food you eat plays just as critical a role in maintaining wellness. High-fiber, nutrient-rich foods are especially beneficial for seniors. Consider adding more vegetables, fruits, and beans to your diet to fill your plate with a variety of healthy foods. Low-fat and fat-free yogurt, cheese, and other milk products are also important for taking in enough vitamin D, which helps to maintain strong bones.
Ask Your Doctor About Supplements
Seniors have specific nutrition needs which even the healthiest diet may fail to meet completely. For example, vitamin B12 and D needs increase with age, and while there are some dietary sources available, it might be worthwhile to look into supplements. Your doctor can help you determine which vitamins and minerals you should be taking daily to optimize your health.