In honor of Healthy Aging Month, let’s discuss a few fitness-related factors that can help you age a bit more gracefully. Some factors that we should take into consideration are your:
- Nutrition cognitive function
- Bone density
When ignored, all of these factors can speed up the aging process and exacerbate many problems as you get older.
Keep Up Your Strength
As we age, our muscle mass naturally decreases due to a condition called sarcopenia; which is unavoidable. This happens in part to cellular aging, as well as a change in our hormones. This process tends occur faster and sooner than in men.
However, you can slow this process by starting to lift heavy weights at any point in your life. Think of it this way: As we age it’s easier to increase the quality of the muscle you have than it is to build new muscle.
To maintain muscle and strength for as long as possible, simply continue to lift heavy weights (relative to your skill level) for as long as you can. This will make your activities of daily life easier later in life.
Increase Your Bone Density
Similarily, we can look at bone density and how it’s related to strength. As your strength decreases, so does your bone density. Conversely, as your strength increases, so will your bone density. Even in advanced stages of Osteoporosis, strength training has been shown to improve bone density.
Being that Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are very common among the elderly population, especially women, you should find a good coach/trainer and start lifting “heavy” weights today.
Take In The Right Nutrition
On average, Americans consume double the amount of daily recommended calories. However, as we age, our appetite typically decreases, which can spell disaster for our daily activities. Later in life, it becomes even more important to get enough protein to encourage the preservation of muscle mass.
Additionally, you also need to be aware of the total amount of food you are consuming. Several studies have shown that undereating as you age can be more costly than slightly overeating. In general, men should not consume less than 1,800 calories a day and women no fewer than 1,500 calories a day, with a protein intake of around 0.8-1 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of bodyweight.
At all ages we should always consider the quality of the food we eat as well as the quantity of the food we eat to maintain a balanced diet.
Care For Your Cognitive Function
Various studies have shown that regular exercise can improve your cognitive function at any age. Therefore, regular exercise/training is very important for us to keep our cognitive function sharp as we get older.
Maintain Your Balance
Your ability to balance is another key adaptation that decreases with age, and there are a few explanations for this. First of all, your muscle mass decreases, so you don’t have as many motor units firing in order to provide balance. So again, maintaining strength is important for balance.
Your mobility also decreases with time, so you will gradually reduce the amount your joints move through their normal range of motion.
These areas are both closely tied together, and people with good mobility typically do not have issues with balance. Of course, lifting weights can help you stay mobile, but there are other methods to consider as well, such as Yoga, Static Stretching, and Foam Rolling.
Get Enough Sleep
As we get older, sleeping tends to become more difficult. This is likely due to the fact that we have more life stressors, more aches and pains, and we are less active. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night is just as important when you are 60 as it is when you are 20. Lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability, decreased recovery from stressors, and memory problems, just to name a few.
Starting and continuing an exercise routine will usually help the quality of your sleep, though there are a couple other methods that can help you establish a healthy bedtime routine. For example, try avoiding TV, phones or other screens 30 minutes before bedtime. I would also recommend not having any caffeine after 4 p.m. with a typical bedtime of around 10-11 p.m.
If you are having trouble sleeping, the top three things I would recommend trying are:
- Starting an exercise routine
- Avoiding “blue” light
- Avoiding caffeine late in the day
Healthy aging is a process that begins when you are young. Do not wait to develop beneficial habits – your future self will thank you as you get older.