One of the most common questions I get as a Physical Therapist is from people over the age of sixty, asking what they can do to stay healthy as they age. This is a loaded question as there are so many things that can be done or modified in one’s life to assure for healthy aging. I have been able to condense this answer down to just a few key points.
There is no question that people that keep themselves busy have a tendency to be healthier. Part of the reason is because when one is busy doing things, they don’t have the opportunity to think about or dwell on other things (like physical ailments, stressors in their life, etc). I encourage seniors to make sure they socialize with family and friends, volunteer, etc. A general rule of thumb that works is to make sure you see at least one person every day.
It’s no secret that exercise has endless benefits for your health and wellbeing. Regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and pain associated with arthritis. The focus of the exercise routine should be on flexibility, strength, endurance, and
balance. This will aid in the prevention of falls. I recommend thirty minute cardiovascular exercises performed daily which will help burn calories, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase energy levels. Strengthening exercises using weights or other forms of resistance training will help build muscle, which will assist in balance. Strengthening exercises include (but not limited to) squats, arm raises, bicep curls, rows, side and back leg raises, and heel raises. Stretching exercises should target large muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, arms and
chest muscles. For individuals with limited mobility and/or pain, low impact exercises like swimming, yoga, and tai chi are great options. Exercise benefits are more than just body, but also benefit emotional health by maintaining an active lifestyle.
Providing your body with a good diet can help you stay active and remain active. As you age, your metabolism slows down, which means you need fewer calories than before. It’s important to choose foods that provide the best nutritional value, such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy. In order to maintain your weight, it’s important that you use the recommended servings. Lastly, staying hydrated is crucial to prevent dehydration, fatigue and to maintain an adequate fluid balance in the body.
When in good health, seniors can stay active and do more. As health needs change, healthy living is the best way to avoid disease, improve one’s quality of life, and live longer.