We shouldn’t fall for the myth that growing older automatically means you’re not going to feel good anymore. While it’s true that aging involves physical changes, it doesn’t have to mean you’ll have pain and disability. Many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or more easily dealt with by exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start!
No matter how old you are or how unhealthy you’ve been in the past, taking care of your body has enormous benefits that will help you stay active, sharpen your memory, boost your immune system, manage chronic health problems, and increase your energy. Who doesn’t want more energy?! I know I do!
In fact, those who take up exercise later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. That’s because they are probably not bothered by the same sports injuries that many other regular exercisers have experienced through the years.
After becoming more active, many older adults report feeling better than ever! That’s because they are now making more of an effort to be healthy than they did when they were younger. When we are younger, we often take our health for granted.
A Swedish study found exercise is the number one contributor to longevity – even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. It’s not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding more life to those years!
Here are a few exercising tips for older adults – remember to always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
1) Find an activity that you actually like to do: Use one that will motivate you to continue and avoid burn-out. If you dread the thought of the activity, it will make it much harder to stick with it.
2) Start slow: If you are new to exercise, even a few minutes a day puts you well on the way towards building a healthy habit. Slowly increasing the time and intensity will help avoid injury.
3) Exercise doesn’t have to mean strenuous activity or time at the gym: Walking is one of the best ways to stay fit. Best of all, it doesn’t require any equipment or experience and you can do it just about anywhere! Shoot for raising your pace to the point where it’s just a little difficult to carry on a conversation. Exercise with a friend or family member – they will help keep you motivated and you’ll benefit from the social contact as well.
4) The important thing is to just move: Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” Park away from the door when shopping or take the stairs when you can. Physical activity pumps up brain function and has been shown to increase the number of brain cells in the hippocampus – the lobe helpful for memory. Doing 15 to 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, can lessen the chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Speaking of brain function, there are many good reasons for keeping your brain as active as your body. Keeping your brain active and maintaining creativity can help prevent cognitive decline and memory problems.
The more active and social you are, and the more you use and sharpen your brain, the more benefits you’ll receive. This is especially true if your career no longer challenges you or if you’ve retired from work altogether.
Here are some tips for staying mentally active:
1) Learn Something New: Whether it’s playing an instrument or a new game, learning something new and working outside your comfort zone involves many different areas of the brain. Even something as simple as trying a new driving route while you’re out running errands will help forge new neural pathways.
2) Use Your Hands: Hand-Eye coordination is both visual and tactile, and will fill the brain with activity. Throwing a ball or using your non-dominant hand can build brainpower. Even better, try sign language: You’ll get the benefit of learning a new language, and in addition to combining that with the hand motions used, exercises even more – and different – areas of the brain.
3) Memorize something new every day: Memorize a new word or lyrics to a song. Write the lyrics down if you have to, and then sing along. Careful listening will sharpen thinking.
4) Eat antioxidants: Foods like blueberries and dark chocolate contain antioxidants that scavenge free radicals – the cause for many age-related human diseases. Foods high in antioxidants may delay or prevent cancer and other neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. They can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
These are just a few tips on how to stay physically and mentally active later in life. For more tips, or to schedule a lifestyle consultation, please contact our office.
Dr. Tom DeWall, Chiropractor