Eating Well & Getting Active for a Healthy Life
Metabolism, cognitive decline, decreases in muscle mass and bone density — as we age, changes occur, body systems can become less efficient and may feel like they just don’t have the oomph they once did. Of course, aging is a natural part of life, but how we handle it, or some might even say, combat it, is entirely up to us as individuals.
Whether you’re turning 60, 70, or 80-years old, many of the same constructs apply — diet, exercise, and a positive mindset all play important roles in keeping your body and mind fit. If you’re scoring well in all three then good for you as that’s like hitting the trifecta at the horse races, something we all desire to achieve but not many do. But if you feel you’re falling behind in one area, or more than one, all is not lost because today is the first day of the rest of your life and it’s never too late to make improvements, reach higher goals, or simply — get started. Let’s do a deep dive into the three foundations of good health — diet; exercise; and a healthy, positive mindset.
Diet — You Are What You Eat
You are what you eat — it’s a proverb we’ve all heard before. And that’s because it originated way back in 1826 when a French lawyer and politician by the name of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote his now-famous words, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es,” which translates to English as: ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are’.
Brillat-Savarin was certainly onto something nearly two-hundred years ago, and his theory has stood the test of time as modern science has proven that what goes into our bodies has a great impact on not only what we are but ‘how’ we are. Thus, in order to stay fit after you hit 60, you need to focus on diet and nutrition. So, how do we do it? It’s probably easier than you think and here’s how.
Green is good; plant-based meals with a healthy serving of green, leafy vegetables is, as they say, just what the doctor ordered. Plant-based foods are packed with all those good things our bodies love. It’s the fuel that keeps us going, and… keeps us healthy. Plant-based foods are loaded with nutrients including those all-important antioxidants such as folate, vitamin C, polyphenols, and more. And scientific research has proven that those who consume a diet filled with plant-based foods can lower their risk for many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, etc. It may not be easy being green, as Kermit the Frog famously said, but from a health perspective… green is definitely good.
Don’t Forget the Nuts (and Fruits)
It’s okay to get a little nutty here and there! In fact, if staying fit after 60 is your goal, you’ll be on the right track when you add these tiny but powerful snacks to your daily diet. Keep some ready-to-eat nuts nearby and reach for them when you want to snack instead of a bag of chips and you’ll be getting a daily power boost. Nuts can lower the risks for everything from high blood pressure to heart disease, blood clots, and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to praise the many benefits of keeping fruit in your diet as well. We may have gotten a little nutty talking about nuts, but fruits are also an essential part of a healthy nutrition plan. A diet high in fruit content can also benefit the heart as well as helping to lower risks for a plethora of diseases. And especially for the over-60 crew, certain fruits can help prevent osteoporosis, others help build stronger bones, and the vitamin C in select fruits can help retain muscle mass.
Drink, Drink, Drink That Water and Avoid Overeating
From digestion to maintaining healthy circulation and body temperature, water is the foundation of a healthy diet and should be your go-to drink all through the day. As we age, we lose water, so if you’re over 60 it’s crucial that you keep hydrated. Keep a bottle or glass nearby. Take it with you when you’re on the go. And keep sipping. Try to drink the equivalent of 8 glasses per day and your body will get the hydration it needs to keep working efficiently.
And, while we all sometimes like to have that extra helping at dinner when it’s OH so tasty, it’s best to eat a mint and call it a night. Overeating is never good for anyone, but it’s especially a bad idea for those of us who are over 60 because overeating leads to obesity, and obesity is linked to a number of chronic diseases.
We Like to Move It, Move It!
That’s right. Moving it is keeping it healthy. And staying fit after 60 is dependent upon just that. Exercise is essential, and along with good nutrition it’s exactly what your body needs to keep working efficiently and favorably. And the wonderful thing about exercise is that it comes in nearly every form imaginable. If you’re a real Jack LaLanne type you can hit the gym and pump some iron, but if you’re looking for something decidedly less strenuous you can simply go for a nice stroll. Just a daily walk for a half hour can do wonders for the body.
If you want to spice it up, get your exercise by working in the garden. Plant some new flowers or mow that lawn with a push mower, either way you’ll be moving the body, exercising those muscles, and getting in some important cardio. Exercise comes in many forms — and all of it is good for your body, and essential to staying fit after 60.
Additionally, many types of exercise are activities that you can do with a friend or a group, and research has continually shown that socializing, spending time with friends, is the best way to avoid the negative effects of isolation, which can lead to depression and a long list of physical maladies.
Exercise keeps the blood moving which is good for the body, and the brain, but exercise also increases the production of important chemicals that safeguard the brain. Just a half hour of exercise a day can improve cognitive functioning for better memory, reasoning, and processing thoughts in general. It can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s for those who have been diagnosed, or even delay Alzheimer’s from starting (though exercise cannot altogether prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring if one is genetically predisposed).
Work That Brain of Yours
If you plan on staying fit after 60 then you have to work ALL your muscles, and your brain is a muscle — so work it. As we age, a whole host of potential problems could be lurking, and a healthy body and brain can help to keep them at bay. Get creative at being creative and expand your mind. It could be something as simple as doing a daily crossword puzzle or playing the popular online game, Wordle. Learn a new language. Enroll in a community college continuing education program and learn some new skills.
Whatever you do just keep the brain working, thinking, solving, and the more you do this the better your brain will perform for you as you age, and the better chance you’ll have at keeping brain-oriented diseases from developing or advancing. Work it!
Staying fit after 60 is something you can do.. Oftentimes getting started is the hardest part, but once you do you’ll find that it’s easier to stay fit than you imagined it could be. And if you’re already fit and doing great, then that’s wonderful — keep at it. Staying fit at any age is a great goal, but the multiple benefits to those over 60 are just too good to ignore. From better cognitive health to lowering your risks for a number of diseases, keeping a fit body and mind is the best thing you can do for your life and wellness.
At Rockbridge Oaks, we encourage residents to reach for their goals whatever they may be. And we have classes, programs, and exercise opportunities that are sure to please almost everyone, and help you maintain a healthy body, a sharp mind, and a calmness that comes naturally by spending time with the people you care about — friends and family.