Beauty comes from the inside out! And as we wrap up the end of Healthy Aging Month, we felt it would be important to touch upon what exactly that means. Simply put, when you combine a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, dietary supplements, regular exercise, and some other key points, you can help to maintain well-rounded optimal health for years to come. Keep reading to find out how to follow some easy healthy aging tips that may make a difference in your life.
3 Important Parts of Healthy Aging
When you think of healthy aging, the first thing you may think of is physical health. This refers to having not only a regular exercise routine, such as a minimum of 30 minutes of walking three to five times a week or a cardio regimen at the gym on the elliptical or treadmill, but it also means strength training and flexibility training.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends strength training to help prevent and even reduce the symptoms of arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, and depression. For adults over age 65, the CDC recommends “at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate level activity per week, such as brisk walking.”
Gyms and fitness centers, community centers, and other sites such as the YMCA offer special low-impact beginner classes for adults and seniors related to strength training, cardio, and flexibility. Some fun, helpful classes to try are aerobics, Zumba (a Latin dance class), yoga and Pilates (for flexibility), and for those interested in a bigger physical challenge – there’s Boot Camp.
But for now, just start small and work your way up. You can get your blood pumping by walking, hiking, running, dancing, swimming, or biking, and promote strong muscles and a healthy metabolism by lifting handheld dumbbells of 3-5 lbs to start, and 8-10 lbs as you get stronger. You can do easy reps of 8-12 per side and then rest for 1 minute in between reps. However, before getting started on this sample 20-minute weight training workout for healthy aging, first try the following 4-minute warm-up!
Before any workout routine, first warm up by jogging in place for one minute. Then, stay standing in place and punch the air by varying which arm is in motion for another minute. Follow this with some knee thrust movements and a basic squat for another minute. (Once you’re used to this 4-minute routine, try adding the dumbbells in each hand to challenge yourself.) Then, follow the link above for further workout instructions.
While exercise is one of the most important ways to maintain health into your senior years, two other crucial keys to the puzzle are getting enough sleep (about 7-9 hours a night is best) and nutrition. Health.gov offers the free Dietary Guidelines for Americans online, organized by gender and age, so you can make healthier eating choices.
However, most people do not get enough vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy aging – especially brain-healthy nutrients such as omega-3 essential fatty acids – from their diet alone. That’s why taking a daily multivitamin is important, as well as other targeted dietary supplements. You can browse sites like Natural Healthy Concepts and various natural health brands to find cruelty-free, allergen-free, all natural and certified organic supplements that are free of any harmful chemicals or toxins.
When it comes to mental health, staying sharp and alert is important, especially when faced with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease for many older people. Dr. Glenn Smith, a neuropsychologist with the Mayo Clinic specializing in Alzheimer's, recommends these mental health tips.
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid smoking, smoking has shown to increase the chance of developing Alzheimer's by 80 percent
- Eat a balanced diet
- Be physically active
- Be socially active
- Engaging in mentally-challenging activities (including reading or learning a new hobby)
- Practice memory skills with puzzles or brain training games
Emotional health goes hand in hand with mental and physical health, especially where healthy aging is concerned. Help maintain a healthy brain and a happy disposition by spending time with your friends or family at least once a week. Not only is it mentally stimulating, but social gatherings and one-on-one time with friends and loved ones can reduce depression, which may become more common as you age.
According to Psychology Today, “your friends influence your happiness and habits.” Even though some friendships may end as we age due to lifestyle differences and changes (moving, marriage or divorce, having kids, or even death), having a few close quality friendships is more important than meeting up with old drinking buddies, for example. The ability to communicate your hopes and dreams, worries or concerns with true friends – even during turbulent times – can improve the quality of your life immensely! That type of strong support system will reduce symptoms of depression and help keep you going.
If you don’t have a lot of friends, there are plenty of opportunities to make new ones. Volunteer groups, church groups, community groups, book clubs, workout groups, and hobby or interest-based groups such as those listed on MeetUp.com are all great ways to meet new people. All you have to do is join a group and show up! Note: Social media is not a stand-in for real human interactions. In fact, social media has been linked to depression, so get off your phone and get out there and be social in real life!
And if you’re still not feeling like you’re practicing healthy aging and need someone to talk to, make an appointment to see a counselor who can help you find the right path. Your health insurance provider should be able to point you in the right direction, or your employer may be able to enroll you in an Employee Assistance program where a phone consultation and the first three visits are free. You can also search for licensed therapists here.
Best wishes on your journey to healthy aging!
Photo by Joe Gardner on Unsplash