No matter how old you are, it can be hard to start, and keep up, a healthy lifestyle. But an important part of healthy aging and maintaining physical wellness for seniors includes more than just exercise. It also includes aspects of your lifestyle and your emotional health.
But what is physical wellness, and how does it apply to older adults? Senior health and wellness includes a healthy diet, exercise, and looking after your mental health. To help you enjoy more happy and healthy years, here are some physical wellness examples.
The benefits of physical wellness for seniors.
Get physical: One of the more obvious places to start is with exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by age 75 about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. It’s recommended seniors participate in:
- Moderate exercise five days a week for at least 30 minutes.
- Muscle-strengthening activities that exercise all major muscle groups two or more days a week
Even if you’re not physically active now, research shows that doing any type of exercise provides some physical health benefits. The most important thing to do is find an activity you like and do it until you can eventually start a routine that includes walking, stretching, weight training and balance.
The CDC lists these important benefits of physical activity:
- Helps maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.
- Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.
- Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
- Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength.
- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.
- Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
- Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
Kick the habit: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It’s estimated that 8.4% of seniors smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. Smoking increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and various forms of cancer.
But there is good news for seniors who smoke: It’s never too late to quit. The National Institute on Aging found that smokers in their 60s, 70s and older saw health benefits when they stopped smoking, including:
- Heart rate and blood pressure dropped to more normal levels.
- Nerve endings began to regenerate, for better smell and taste.
- Lungs, heart and circulatory system began to function better.
- Less chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
- Improved breathing.
- Lower chance of getting cancer.
Not just beauty rest: A good night’s sleep does more than ensure you’ll be well rested for the coming day. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a lack of sleep can cause short-term cognitive impairment and long-term cognitive decline. Healthy sleep helps to maintain cognitive functioning and is a critical factor for predicting better mental well-being, increased ability to perform activities of daily living, reduced fall risk, better self-reported health status, and reduced risk of hospitalization. While your sleep can become lighter and be easily interrupted as you age, you should talk to your doctor if you’re not feeling rested when you wake up.
Stress less: During uncertain times, it’s normal to feel anxious. However, if you feel stress and are anxious for long periods of time, that can lead to a harmful condition called chronic stress. Common causes of chronic stress can include worrying about your finances, relationships or caring for a loved one. Chronic stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and decreased immune function. Some of the suggestions above — improving your sleep and exercising — can help reduce your overall stress. You can also try meditation and other relaxation techniques.
Why weight?: Being overweight can impact your mobility later in life and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and glucose intolerance, certain types of cancer, and sleep-related breathing disorders. If you’re overweight, studies have found that losing even 5%-7% of your current weight can improve your physical health.
Healthy diet: As you grow older, your metabolism slows down, and you need fewer calories. You also need more of certain nutrients. That’s why it’s important to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value. To ensure you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need, your plate should feature a variety of bright, colored foods. According to the National Council on Aging, a healthy meal should include:
- Lean protein: lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans.
- Fruits and vegetables: look for orange, red, green and purple.
- Whole grains: brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
- Low-fat dairy: milk and milk alternatives like soy, almond, cashew, etc.
Your physical wellness matters.
One of the easiest ways to improve your physical wellness is by finding a wellness buddy to help motivate you. Someone with similar goals who can inspire you to keep going. Or better yet, an entire community that offers nutritious meals, wellness programs, a fitness center and wellness-focused residents. If you’re ready to explore your options, start researching thousands of communities and their physical wellness for seniors philosophy with the Where You Live Matters community finder.
Centers for Disease Control
Better Health While Aging
National Institute on Aging
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Council on Aging
Where You Live Matters