Maintaining Health and Fitness in Old Age

Aging is all about changes and our healthy response to them. Typical changes include loss of family or friends, your career, your health, and worries of losing your independence.  It’s natural to feel those changes as losses. But, you have extremely joyful ways to age gracefully. The truth is that you are seriously wiser, stronger and resilient than you think. You hold a massive fountain of wisdom you can draw on that which will easily guide you through your senior years. This article will discuss the main issues that are important for healthy aging.

Senior Strutters March Show

Image by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

First, let’s discuss what some of us may find difficult. That is thinking about and accepting that we all have to die. In fact teenagers often find this harder to accept than older people. Our death can be considered the most important event in our life. It deserves our attention. If you haven’t already thought about death, then it might be time to do so now. People often find this liberating. Try dwelling on your death sometimes until you feel more comfortable with the idea. Turning your attention to death now and then should be regarded as a positive process. With this acceptance, your life takes on a new richness. This is important. Do it!  We can’t tell you how to do this because everyone has different religious beliefs and/or thoughts of what happens when we die. It’s up to each of us to conquer this challenge in our own way.

Next, let’s discuss the importance of exercise and fitness. We can’t stress enough how aerobic exercise in our senior years improves our lives. After just 2 weeks of aerobic exercising, you will feel you carry your groceries in easier, climb the steps with laundry way better and a host of other benefits. Since most seniors worry about losing their independence, exercise is a must!  It will enhance your health to a state where you no longer worry about it.

Now, it’s important to choose 3 different types of exercise for 3 different reasons. These 3 are aerobic (for endurance), weight training (for strength), and stretching exercises (for flexibility). The most important one is aerobic exercise because it sends oxygen and healing nutrients to the heart and lungs. It decreases heart and lung disease by miles! This is true whether you’ve not exercised ever in your life. Plus it gives heart and lungs benefits whether you are 60 or 85 years old.  It’s never too late to start.

So, how do you achieve aerobic exercise and how much do you need?  OK, you need 20-30 minutes uninterrupted vigorous exercise at least 3 times a week.  Aerobic exercise gets your heart pounding faster and your lungs challenged to inhale more oxygen.  Most seniors choose their aerobic exercising from 3 main ways:  1) walking briskly, 2) swimming and, 3) joining an aerobic exercise class.

This article is limited in space to instruct weight training and stretching exercises.  However, that information can be easily found on the Internet. Just type in a search phrase of “seniors weight training” and “seniors stretching exercises” and you’ll get step by step presentations with pictures of how to perform these.

Let’s move on to eating a healthy diet in our senior years. Just some of the benefits of healthy eating include reduced illness and disease, increased mental acuteness, increased energy levels, a burst in the functioning of our immune system, and recuperating faster from illness or injuries. Also, cutting calories and eating high nutrient foods keeps our weight down. You don’t have to have a dietician explain good eating to you. Eat a diet with a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Just having a broad range of colors of each category increases mental alertness. Add various types of lean meat and low calorie dairy products and you’ll be reducing chances of Alzheimer’s, cancer, high blood pressure, and anemia. So paying attention to Omega-3 fatty acids will help you keep your mind sharpened, reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and especially improve the functioning of your heart. These are huge reasons to get Omega-3 fatty acids in your weekly diet.  If you are like us and hate the taste of fish, report this to your doctor.  There are Omega-3 fatty acid supplements available!  Otherwise, if you do eat fish, the American Health Association recommends that you eat 3.5 ounces of fatty cooked fish at least twice a week.  Here are some of the shellfish included; salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, albacore tuna, and lake trout.

As we age, our stomach and intestines don’t function as well as when we were younger. So seniors are prime targets for constipation.  Avoid constipation by eating high fiber foods such as raw fruits, whole grains, vegetables and beans. These assist sluggish intestinal actions and also are very filling foods to help maintain weight. Also because of seniors lowered stomach and intestinal action, we should eat foods rich in Vitamin B-12 or make sure it’s in your daily vitamin. Also check your vitamin bottle for Vitamin D.  It is essential for absorbing and using calcium and Vitamin B-12 in our body properly. Since most of our lives, we counted on absorbing sunshine to create Vitamin D in our body.  However, with aging, our skin doesn’t absorb the sunshine enough to make a completely full daily dose of Vitamin D.  Therefore, many seniors take a calcium supplement that has Vitamin D included. The dose for preventing and stopping further osteoporosis is 500 mg calcium with Vitamin D 3 times a day.

Lastly, we’ll wind this article up by stressing the importance of stress relievers. These are meditation, yoga or relaxation exercises. These again would be a full article in itself.  It’s best to say that each of these is easily found by doing an Internet search. Institute at least 2 of the recommendations in this article and see your positive life changes!  You don’t have to live with the myths you thought were true.  Your senior years should be full of happy interchanges and actions.  Take the time to do them!

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