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Many people vastly underestimate how much control they have over their old age. It’s easy to feel as though poor physical and mental health are inevitable when you grow older and that they are simply part of the process. However, a healthy lifestyle can make an incredible difference, with a few key habits being particularly important. Whatever your age now, building these habits will ensure a happier, healthier, and longer old age.
"Your goal is to hit 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity."
Many of the health problems commonly associated with seniors, including decreased mobility, balance, and flexibility, are not a natural result of aging but a result of a decrease in physical activity. Our lifestyles have been shown to become more sedentary as we grow older, which leads to muscle loss, weakened bones, and poor cardiovascular health.
Regular exercise enhances mobility, but it also improves mood and reduces your risk of getting several illnesses. Incorporating exercise into your routine can be easy. For example, you can take up some indoor exercises at home, or you can simply commit to walking more often. Your goal is to hit 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, which can be made up of any combination of workouts you prefer.
A mere 17 percent of American adults over 60 are eating a diet considered “good” by the CDC. Malnutrition is a real issue amongst the elderly and can lead to issues with bone health, muscle mass, brain function, and your immune system. This, in turn, can lead to a loss of mobility, balance, strength, healing capacity, and cognitive function.
The National Institute on Aging has a set of sample menus outlining what a healthy day of eating looks like for a senior. These are useful for planning out meals you can stick to, but they also provide a good benchmark for what you should be eating. If your diet looks very different from this, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve it.
"A reliable social group can be an invaluable source of moral support."
To some extent, everyone knows that diet and exercise are important for health. However, most people forget the importance of socialization. Studies have shown that social isolation can have a devastating effect on the physical, mental, and cognitive health of seniors. Conversely, an active social life is one of the best indicators of senior well-being. A reliable social group can be an invaluable source of moral support, greatly minimizing the loneliness -- and subsequent depression -- often experienced by the elderly.
The great thing about socialization is that it can easily tie in with other healthy habits. An exercise class is both great for getting fit and for meeting new people, while having friends and family in your life can prevent you from picking up bad food habits that lead to malnutrition.
Making new friends in old age can seem impossible, but remember that there are millions of other seniors in the same boat as you who would also be thankful for a new friend. There are hundreds of classes, groups, and networks available designed specifically to bring seniors together. This guide by Great Senior Living details can give you some ideas of where to start.
Everyone knows that diet, exercise, and socialization are key to good health, but many people assume that they can’t stop your health deteriorating as you grow older. As it turns out, old age and poor health do not have to go hand in hand. Whether it be taking up a new exercise, shifting your eating habits, or joining a class to meet new friends, you can be fully in control of your physical and mental health as long as you are willing to put in the effort.
Our guest blog writer, Jason Lewis, is a personal trainer and caregiver to his elderly mom. He enjoys sharing his fitness knowledge on his website strongwell.org. He can be reached at email@example.com