Aging is a fact of life. So let’s talk about how to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, making the most of our years. “Age is just a number.” On our Tanita scale it gives us a health age. It is very encouraging when that’s younger than our chronological age. However, it doesn’t take our blood pressure or cholesterol or stress level or sleep habits or lifestyle into account. It does, in fact, consider your weight, your percent of body fat, and your waist circumference. Now is a wonderful time to consider how your lifestyle can help improve your chronological age and improve your future.
As with all our actions, there are natural consequences, whether good or bad. So let’s think about some of our actions that affect our physical health.
1. Exercise. This affects our health in numerous ways. Without exercise our bodies become stiff as our flexibility and mobility decrease, as does our balance, and our risk of falls increases. Even our cognitive processes are decreased without exercise. However, on the flip side, exercise improves our attitude by increasing the endorphins. It can reduce anxiety and depression and improve our immune function. Exercise helps burn more calories and decreases hunger, thus helping to control our percent of body fat and our weight. It helps maintain a lower blood sugar which helps fight disease. We have increased stamina and a decreased risk of premature heart disease and cancer. The bottom line is to exercise at least 150 minutes per week aerobically. Progressive levels of sensorimotor exercises, resistance training 2-3 days per week, coordination and balance exercises are all of vital importance in maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.
2. Maintain a healthy diet. Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it! Also, as you age, your metabolism slows down. This makes it even more important to eat nutrient dense foods that will meet your nutritional needs while keeping the caloric intake low to help maintain an ideal body weight and give you the energy you need from your food. Some of these nutrient dense foods are wild caught salmon, kale, spinach, garlic, onions, blueberries, egg yolks, and my favorite, dark chocolate.
You cannot out exercise a bad diet. So, choose wisely to keep your calories relatively low and your nutrient intake very high. So, each week move at least 150 minutes with cardiovascular exercise and do strength training 2-3 times per week. This combination will keep your body in good physical health.
Exercises for healthy aging (clockwise from top):
1-Standing Chest Press. Begin by putting your hands through the handles and grab the band to remove the slack positioning your hands at chest height. With elbows up and palms facing down, now press the hands straight out in front of you until your arms reach full extension, and squeeze the chest muscles. Return to starting position and repeat 12- 15 times.
2-Seated Row. Sit down, with legs extended straight, back up straight and belly pulled in, place the band securely around your feet. Sitting nice and tall, arms extended and palms facing each other, pull the band toward your core, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to starting position and repeat 12- 15 times.
3-Spinal Twist. Sit tall, cross one leg over the other(right), now place the opposite hand (left) on that knee (right), take the (right) hand to the back of the chair and turn your head to look over the (right) shoulder. Look around behind you as far as you are able. Inhale, hold about 10 seconds, exhale and turn back facing forward. Repeat on the other side.
4-Supine Hamstring Stretch. Lie flat on your back, put the band securely around your foot. Slowly extend that leg as straight as possible into the air while the other leg is resting flat on the floor. Hold this stretch about 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat other leg.
5-Downward Facing Dog. Stand behind a chair and comfortably rest your hands on the back of the chair. With the arms straight, back away from the chair keeping the heels under the hips. Bend your knees slightly and bend forward from your hips. Breathe into your back as you lengthen your spine. Allow the body to relax into this stretch, holding it 20- 60 seconds if it feels good. To come out, start walking toward the chair and bend your knees as you bring your torso upright.