Actively Aging: Enjoying Life and Staying Healthy
Whether you’re an elite level athlete, or simply someone who enjoys a leisurely walk from time to time, there’s something that we all have in common – aging.
So, how do you maintain an active lifestyle as you age, or begin engaging in more activity to better your health later in life? How do you actively age?
No matter your age, it’s important to be a participant in your own aging process. Why? The better you are able to understand you body, mind, goals, and limitations, the better you will be able to recognize your needs. It’s important to seek and maintain relationships with those who will help keep your healthy and active. It’s also helpful to plan your daily routine and arrange your home and life in a way that promotes activity and overall health and wellness.
It’s hard to think about aging when you’re 25 or 30. But, why not set yourself up for success? Beginning and maintaining an active lifestyle will make life easier as you approach 55 or 60. If you’ve been an athlete for years, you likely already understand how important proper nutrition and exercise is to maintaining good health. But, as your body changes, how do you manage your health? If you’re new to an active lifestyle, where do you start? How do you maintain activity outdoors year round if you live in a place where the climate changes often? There are a few things you can do no matter how old you are to help take care of your body.
1. Exercise daily (or almost daily)
Find something you enjoy. If you hate to run, try something else. Exercise should not be a chore. It should be fun, and it should be a special part of your day. If you enjoy exercising with others, find a local group, class, or gym. This is a great way to meet people, and build relationships with those who have similar goals. Perhaps you’ve been a runner for years and your body is starting to hurt. Now what? Find a way to cross train. Maybe that’s cycling, maybe it’s something else. Continue to find joy in exercise, growth, and change.
Mix it up. As the body ages, it’s important to remember that weight training is key. By our early 40s, most of us are losing muscle mass at a rate of about 5 percent per decade. Older individuals who lift weights can slow or reverse that descent! Not only does weight training help with gaining muscle mass and strength, but it helps with mobility, metabolic health, confidence, and mental sharpness. Don’t be afraid to find a class or a program to help you get started. Learning the basics and proper form is the key to continued performance while minimizing your risk of injury. Many fitness centers offer programs for older individuals that cater to the aging body. These are a great place to learn and meet others who have similar goals.
Everyone starts somewhere. If you’ve lived a largely sedentary life without much exercise, it’s not too late for you to begin. Start by spending a little time outside. Find a park and go for a walk. Notice how your body feels when you move. Everyone starts somewhere, and nothing is too small. Build up slowly, and mix things up. Go for a bike ride. Throw in an extra walk for your pup each day. Take a yoga class. Work toward a local 5k benefiting a cause you care about. Just move. Both your body and mind will thank you.
Finding and maintaining motivation can be tricky when the seasons change. Spring and Fall can be great times to be outdoors. The weather is nice, the flowers are blooming, the leaves are changing, and the temperature feels great. But what about summer? Winter? These are great times to try something else. Is running or walking in the heat too much? Try riding bikes or spending time swimming. Maybe you can rent a kayak and check out a local lake with family and friends. Are your roads snowy or icy in the winter? Try utilizing the track at your local school or even cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Those exercises may sound daunting, but you don’t have to go fast or far – just learn and try it out! You may find a new favorite hobby!
2. Find a way to relieve stress
Maybe your stress relief is already exercise. If so, that’s great. You may have already found the things you enjoy are the best stress relief. Try yoga, massage, music, or simply sitting outdoors for a bit. Do you like to cook? Try some new healthy recipes and share them with the ones you love.
Keeping your stress level low helps with mental sharpness and helps keep you motivated to do the things you enjoy. High stress levels over a long period of time can take a real toll on our health. Don’t let that happen to you. Taking care of your emotional health is a key component to maintaining good physical health as well.
3. Monitor your food
Moderation is key. There’s no harm in having a slice of birthday cake or ice cream cone at the beach. Food should not be a stressor for you. But, it’s important to watch what you put into your body. Look for foods high in antioxidants, minerals, and all the other vitamins found in fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meat. A small garden is a great way to get a bit of exercise and have fresh food at the same time. If you don’t have space for a garden, check out your local farmer’s market – you might enjoy meeting the vendors, and getting some fresh air while picking out your produce.
Shop seasonal favorites. Fresh watermelon in the summer is a great way to stay hydrated, and pumpkin dishes in the fall provide a great source of essential vitamins
4. Step out of your comfort zone
Keep your mind sharp. Step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Perhaps it’s a new exercise class, learning a new language, or getting involved with a charity that’s important to you.
The changing seasons are a great chance to try new activities and try something new. For example, summer softball leagues are a fun way to stay active and build relationships. Although falls can hurt a bit, ice skating in the winter is not only magical and fun, it’s a great way to use some different muscles and spend time outdoors.
Sign up for an event. Maybe you have a goal to complete a 5k. Maybe it’s a half marathon or a triathlon. Whatever your goal is, stick to your training plan even on the bad days. The weather won’t always cooperate. The seasons will change, but your goal shouldn’t. Use your race as a motivational tool to stay active outside.
5. Don’t ignore your yearly checkups
Your yearly physical is important. Don’t skip your doctor visits, and pay attention to what you learn while you’re there. Is your blood pressure high? How about your cholesterol? What does your doctor recommend that you do to lower them? A safe bet is that diet and exercise will be included.
Don’t skip your dental visits either. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease, so don’t overlook the importance of proper dental care. Plus, that healthy smile will make you feel better all around.
Your body is a gift, and you have so much to offer your friends, family, and your community. Take care of what you’ve been given and share your gifts with those around you. Getting started can be scary, but everyone begins somewhere. Lace up your shoes and go for a quick walk outside. Take a trip to your local farmers market, and try a new healthy recipe. You never know what you might find to enjoy when you start a new journey to becoming a better you.
About the author:
Joy Weis has nearly 20 years of running experience. Joy and her husband, Nick, manage Lucky Fox Coaching which focuses on running/canicross coaching for all levels of athletes. Joy is also a spin instructor in addition to her full time role with Jordan Valley Community Health Center. Joy has had the privilege to represent the United States at two world championships in the sport of canicross, and will be headed to Sweden this fall for a third. Joy enjoys yoga, playing the piano, singing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, reading, cooking, rock climbing, spending time with family and friends, working with her dogs, and really good coffee. Joy is the race director for the Havin’ A Crappie Weekend Outdoor Festival at Stockton Lake, MO each Spring and truly enjoys helping people find joy in becoming and staying active.
Coaching Info: http://www.luckyfoxkennel.com/coaching.html