10 Tips to Help Older Adults Stay Healthy and Active

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Written by Guest | September 20th, 2019
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Guest Post by Melissa Morris

There are some unique things that happen to your body as you age, so it’s important that you stay healthy by making good nutritional choices and staying active. Older adults experience a loss of bone mass, a loss of muscle mass, an increase of fat mass, a decrease in metabolism, and a decrease in thirst. Seniors are also more vulnerable to chronic health conditions like arthritis, which may impact their energy to workout.

Here are ten tips for older adults that can help them stay energized, improve strength and endurance, prevent or delay chronic health conditions, boost their brain health, and improve their quality of life. Many of these tips have multiple benefits to enhance wellness.

1. Eat fish twice a week

Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for our heart health, brain health, and joint health. They can also reduce inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends at least two 3–4 ounce servings weekly of fish. Fish is also a good source of protein, which is important for retaining muscle mass.

2. Drink plenty of water

The thirst mechanism in our body does not work as well as we age, so older adults may not feel as thirsty as when we were younger. Our bodies are around 60 percent water, so it’s important to always drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and to keep your kidneys functioning properly. The color of your urine can be a guide to hydration status. If it’s a light lemonade color, you are hydrated.

3. Do two sessions of strength training weekly

Strength training has numerous benefits for older adults, like increasing muscle mass, improving balance, decreasing fat mass, and improving metabolism. It can also help with normal activities of daily living, like carrying in groceries, getting in and out of the car, and getting up off of the toilet. If you are a beginner to strength training, find a local class, hire a personal trainer, or find exercise videos or an exercise program online, like one from the National Institute on Aging. You can do body-weight exercises with minimal equipment at home as well.

4. Get regular check-ups and follow instructions from your medical provider

It is very important to keep up with regular medical care, like vision exams, hearing and ear exams, skin checks, and preventive screenings like mammograms, colonoscopies, and prostate exams. Regular appointments with your specialists are especially important if you have any chronic conditions. You should also have recommended blood work done regularly and have your blood pressure checked often. Make sure to take medications correctly and keep a medication list on file with the pharmacist so you avoid any drug interactions.

5. Practice balance or flexibility activities

Balance and flexibility are vital as we age to prevent falls, help us move better, and keep us loosened up. It is easy to lose some stability or mobility as we get older if we don’t practice these activities regularly. Yoga, Tai Chi, or lower body exercises can help improve balance. Practice standing on one foot while you are cooking or brushing your teeth. Do some stretches throughout the day or for five to ten minutes, once an hour, if you are sitting a lot. The National Institute on Aging also has some great and simple balance activities on their website.

6. Use your mind and be creative

Do crossword puzzles, learn a new hobby, play chess, take an educational class, read a book, or visit a museum. All of those are great ways to stimulate your mind. Just as the body needs regular physical activity, the brain needs to work out as well.

7. Engage in social activities

Volunteer, eat at the senior center, meet a friend or family member out for lunch, join a club or organization, or join social activities at your church. It’s very important for older adults to engage with others to prevent social isolation and depression. Some organizations offer opportunities like intergenerational tutoring, which pair children with adults who help them with schoolwork and serve as mentors.

8. Go for a daily walk

A daily walk of 30 to 60 minutes has numerous health benefits, like lowered risk for many diseases, improved heart health, enhanced well-being, better sleep, and more. If 30 minutes straight is a challenge, try breaking it into smaller increments, like three 10-minute walks and build up from there. All you need is a safe place to walk and comfortable shoes. Ask a friend to join you or try a walking trail or park and enjoy being outside.

9. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of many nutrients, like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber helps keep us regular and prevents constipation. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season for the best prices and quality. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also a great choice because they are rich in nutrients, reasonably priced, convenient, and last a while in the freezer. Canned fruits and vegetables that are low-sodium or low-sugar can also be convenient, inexpensive, and tasty.

10. Choose protein and dairy at every meal

Some older adults may not eat enough protein for various reasons. Meat can be more expensive for our food budget and it can be harder to chew. Don’t forget about plant-based protein foods, like beans, nuts, various nut butters, seeds, or soy products. Eggs and fish are also high-protein foods. Dairy is a great source of calcium and vitamin D, which is important for bone health. Dairy foods also have potassium and protein as well.

Melissa Morris is a writer for exercise.com who has a BS and an MS in exercise science and an EdD in educational leadership. She is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist. She teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the University of Tampa and has worked in health education, fitness, and nutrition for 15 years.

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